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WSU students advance in competition to help design NASA spacesuit

NASA Artemis.jpg
Courtesy of NASA
The Artemis Mission is an initiative to land more American astronauts on the moon. WSU students are helping with the mission's spacesuit design.

A team of students at Wichita State are competing in a NASA programming design challenge.

A team of Wichita State students has made it into the top 10 of a NASA programming design challenge.

NASA’s Spacesuit User Interface Technologies for Students (SUITS) challenge requires students to design and create spacesuit information displays within augmented reality environments. The students' programs will be used in astronauts' helmet displays.

WSU’s team includes both undergraduate and graduate students from a range of majors.

Bill Bui, the team leader, and Abbie Hutton are graduate students in the Human Factors PhD program. Ramil Hinshaw, the team's programmer, is a senior studying computer science. Valerie Hubner, Oluwasayo Adekalu and Philip Zavala are graduate students in the Innovation Design program. Radeef Karim is a freshman working toward his bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering.

“I think it's really interesting to make it to the top 10, just because you don't really think of Wichita State to be an aerospace NASA-related school,” Hubner said.

“But it's really cool that we have all these multi-interdisciplinary students come together and make it to the top 10 with all these other amazing schools, and we're really excited to see it hopefully go somewhere else.”

During the fall semester of 2021, the team submitted a proposal for its design plan. Now that the team has made it to the top 10, it will move on to the building phase of the challenge.

There are four things NASA is looking for in the team's design. The software needs to include long-term and short-term navigation as well as search and rescue navigation; terrain sensing; good user interface, and a sensor for the suit’s status and vitals.

The challenge was created to promote innovation and progress for the Artemis Mission. Artemis is an initiative to land more American astronauts on the moon.

The mission hopes to land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon. NASA plans to collaborate with commercial and international partners in order to establish the first long-term presence on the moon, and then in the future, send the first astronauts to Mars.

Maggie Schoonover is a faculty advisor for the WSU team. She works with the students and supports them as they work on the challenge.

“The goal here is for NASA to actually come up with the best, most cutting edge, most useful designs for the astronauts,” Schoonover said, “and if even any part of our ideas or any part of their design were to actually get incorporated into what Artemis astronauts use in the future, I think that would just be beyond amazing.”