UMD Students Join Forces with NASA to Design Next-generation Spacesuits
A team of University of Maryland students has been invited to participate in the NASA Spacesuit User Interface Technologies for Students (SUITS) Artemis Student Challenge.
SUITS is a software design challenge that tasks students across the United States with developing spacesuit information displays within augmented reality environments that will assist astronauts in conducting spacewalks more effectively.
The challenge tackles key aspects of NASA’s Artemis missions, which will land the first woman and next man on the moon, and provides students the opportunity to work hands on toward contributing real solutions for NASA. Upon successful testing, the user interface displays have the potential to help astronauts on lunar explorations for the Artemis program.
The UMD team, known as Team Terp SUITS, is one of 20 teams advancing to the next phase of the SUITS 2021 Challenge. The students will spend the next few months coding their augmented reality-based prototype and preparing to ship their finished work to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, in time to have their design evaluated virtually during test week, April 19-23, 2021.
“The NASA SUITS Challenge allows me to hone my creativity and apply my passion for augmented reality towards making an impact in the realm of space exploration. I'm so excited to be a part of this experience,” said senior computer engineering major Sahil Mayenkar, who is the Team Terp SUITS leader and XR Club president.
This is the first time that students from UMD have participated in this challenge, and the effort is being spearheaded by the university’s XR Club, a student organization that provides its members with resources and opportunities to explore virtual, augmented and mixed reality. The eight-member team consists of students majoring in computer science, computer engineering, information science, mathematics, biological sciences, and government and politics.
“I am impressed by the initiative the students took to participate in this competition, and I am thrilled to provide support for their project,” said the team’s advisor, Matthias Zwicker, professor and interim chair of the Department of Computer Science. “It is exciting to see them using these cutting-edge augmented reality technologies to work on such a fascinating real-world problem. There is no doubt that this experience will be a huge asset for the future careers of these students.”
The team’s proposal centers around a digital robotic avatar named A.R.T.E.M.I.S., an artificial intelligence assistant that helps an astronaut with tasks related to his or her mission in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Such tasks could include navigation and exploration around a lunar surface and excavation of lunar samples for geological research.
“Being able to work alongside other talented students, who each bring a diverse set of skills and ideas to the table, is incredibly rewarding,” Mayenkar said. “I can't wait to see how our final product turns out!”
Written by Abby Robinson