NASA Finds Innovation From College Projects


In order to be of any assistance to an intergovernmental space program, one MUST have attended a graduate program from an Ivy League university and have worked in the engineering industry for at least 20 years. Right? Wrong. College students can provide useful potential to the organization. Oh, and they do not all even have to be a part of a STEM field.

Astronaut suits are intricate pieces of work, and they have to be put together correctly in order for the astronauts to be able to actually survive in outer space. So when putting together such an outfit, would a fashion designer or a scientist be needed? Both.

Ted Southern made the Victoria’s Secret Angel Wings. He also works on innovating gloves for astronaut suits. In grad school, Southern was designing gloves his master’s thesis when he came across a NASA competition to redesign astronaut gloves. Though Southern lost the first time he entered the competition, he did team up with a fellow competitor, an engineer from Russia, Niklay Moiseev. The two collaborated to design a single layer glove, and they wound up winning second place in the competition two years later. Moiseev moved to the United States and he and Southern formed Final Frontier Design. What is interesting though, is that Southern acknowledges that although he and Moiseev can work as contractors for the government, there are other space industries out there that are also very ambitious.

University of Alabama students won the 2015 NASA Robotic Mining Competition. Alabama Astrobiotics constructed the first┬árobot that would complete the first fully-autonomous run in the competition’s history. The University of Alabama won the competition back in 2012 as well. The robot constructed by the University of Alabama team “has no rivals from all those that have competed in the six years of this competition.” What this means for space organizations is that a generation of excellent students to select scientists from is guaranteed. Students are certainly moving forward with understanding and innovating technology.

Furthermore, an addition to the 2014-2015 NASA Student Launch Challenge reveals the importance of young minds to the needs of science. The 2014-2015 challenge calls for students to design, construct, and launch a rocket AND to design and test autonomous ground support equipment. This upgrade in the challenge supports NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket because it adds to the research and development involved in keeping the system efficient. Alotta Taylor, director of Strategic Integration within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington says that the experience “prepares them for NASA careers.”

Indeed, the space industry’s needs are no joke. An organization that has reached the odds of sending people beyond Earth does demand the most intelligent and articulate scientists to put its machinery together. As history has shown, even the smallest detail being defected can be detrimental and cost the lives of astronauts, and a lot of money. But space technology was not planned out overnight, it has taken great minds and several experiences to put together the projects that the space organization has today. However, innovation can be found anywhere, from anyone. Do not underestimate the capabilities of college students and the potential that professionals of non-STEM industries can offer. Innovation demands thinking outside the box, and so far, NASA has proven that it does just that, and finds success in it.

By Tania Dawood

CBS- From Victoria’s Secret wings to NASA Spacesuits

AL- University of Alabama students win NASA space mining competition

Nasa- NASA Selects University and College Student Teams for High-Powered Rocket Challenge

Featured Photo Courtesy of NASA’s Flickr- Creative Commons License

Head Photo Courtesy of Matt Biddulph’s Flickr- Creative Commons License

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