Space Engineering Institute students present Fall 2007 projects

November 28, 2007
| By: Aubrey Bloom

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Space Engineering Institute (SEI) students from Texas A&M University, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Texas A&M-Commerce presented their Fall 2007 projects Nov. 16. SEI is a center of the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES). SEI's undergraduate research program, funded by NASA, focuses on student retention in engineering, especially students from underrepresented groups (women and ethnic minorities). The program is in its fifth year with more than 50 engineering undergraduate students enrolled at the three different universities. Students join SEI during their freshman year and are placed on interdisciplinary teams to work on applied research projects sponsored by NASA. The Texas A&M Materials Team worked with a bio-sensor technology developed by Dr. Allison Ficht and Dr. Xiaofeng Kang at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine at Texas A&M. The team developed a design that will test multiple biosensors on a single zero-gravity flight to evaluate the technology for its use on space exploration. The team submitted their proposal to NASA and hopes to be selected for flight testing in Spring 2008. Team mentors are Ficht, Kang and graduate student Erin Bishop. The team includes Jahaziel Chavira, senior, mechanical engineering; Jennifer Kirchner, senior, aerospace engineering; Daniel Grimes, senior, computer science; Katy Westhoff, junior, aerospace engineering; Opeyemi Ijagbemi, junior, ocean engineering; Nikhil Bhatnagar, sophomore, aerospace engineering; Norma Horn, sophomore, mechanical engineering; and Brannon Veal, sophomore, electrical engineering. The Texas A&M Pretreatment Team identified a non-toxic pretreatment alternative to enable water reclamation for long term space applications. The team completed testing with minimum concentrations of acetic and glycolic acids and evaluated the use of pyruvic and citric acids as possible pretreatment candidates. In addition, they evaluated the use of a bioreactor to assess pretreatment chemical toxicity. The team will present their findings at the Earth and Space Conference of American Society of Civil Engineering in March 2008. Team mentors are Dr. Karen Pickering from NASA JSC and Texas A&M graduate student Julianna Camacho. The team includes Sara Guest, senior, chemical engineering; Moriah Thompson, senior, biomedical engineering; Marco Cienega Jr, junior, mechanical engineering; Julianne Larson, junior, aerospace engineering; Emily Dossman, freshman, aerospace engineering; Warnessa Freeman, freshman, chemical engineering; Natalie Pilzner, freshman, aerospace engineering; and Leann Smith, freshman, biomedical engineering. The Texas A&M-Kingsville Mechanical Battery Team designed a safe, efficient mechanical battery that stores energy in a mechanical form for use on the space station. The team presented a mechanical battery design, which includes a electromagnetic clutch, braking system, housing and mounting plates of the gear system, composite strips and transformer/electrical configuration. They completed modeling and testing the composite strips in both tension and torsion. In addition, they updated and optimized the gear design to accommodate tension elements. The team, led by Dr. Larry Peel and graduate student Dustin Grant, includes Javier Lozano, senior, mechanical engineering; Victor Castillo, senior, mechanical engineering; Hector Hernandez, senior, electrical engineering; Krystal Gunter, junior, electrical engineering; and Luis Muratalla, sophomore, mechanical engineering. The Texas A&M-Kingsville Laundry In Space Team designed a process to wash, disinfect and dry lightly soiled clothing in the micro-gravity environment of the International Space Station. The team developed a design that uses a vacuum-based approach to remove soil and stains from laundry. The design was tested, improved with new materials to remove leakages and tested again. Results show a vacuum process alone is not sufficient to wash and dry clothing in the desirable amount of time. The team researched alternative approaches to improve effectiveness of the process. They will incorporate agitation and a multi-stage process to improve their design. The team, also led by Peel and Grant, includes Trey Evans, sophomore, mechanical engineering; Victoria Bailey, freshman, mechanical engineering; Michael Gutierrez, freshman, mechanical engineering; and Eli Hatfield, freshman, electrical engineering. The Texas A&M Tele-Operation Team is working to complete projects such as successfully tele-operating a Texas A&M truck and developing a 3D environment at the Space Engineering Institute. The team was able to setup the CAVE hardware and Landform software, GPS-reference models and wireless network connections. This enabled them to send and receive data and to establish a connection with the GPS and IMU units of the Texas A&M truck. The team, led by Dr. Tamas Kalmar-Nagy and Stephen Glenn, includes Angelo Bianchini, senior, mechanical engineering; Amanda Collins, senior, aerospace engineering; John Quiñones, senior, chemical engineering; David Roden, senior, computer science; David Taylor, senior, aerospace engineering; Ernest Everett, junior, mechanical engineering; Agustin Maqui, junior, aerospace engineering; Marcus Payne, junior, aerospace engineering; Christine Tipton, sophomore, biomedical engineering; Jason York, sophomore, aerospace engineering; and J.C. Reeves, freshman, aerospace engineering. The Texas A&M Robotics Team designed and demonstrated the cooperative lifting and transportation of a construction object using two robots. The team presented their modeling and simulation approach for robot kinematics, the use of an overhead camera for inertial measurements, odometry error investigation and mitigation, Kalman-filter simulations and simple path-planning algorithms. The team participated in the Texas Space Grant Consortium Design Challenge Nov. 20, where they received first place in team dynamics, second place in oral presentation, third place in project model and runners-up in best technical paper. The team, led by Dr. Johnny Hurtado and graduate student Lesley Weitz, includes Jesse Bowes, senior, computer science; Kristen Holmstrom, senior, aerospace engineering; Dennis Underwood, senior, aerospace engineering; Matt Wilson, senior, computer engineering; Kelli Boehringer, junior, aerospace engineering; Amy Bolon, junior, mechanical engineering; Roy Palacios, junior, electrical engineering; Tyler Thurston, junior, aerospace engineering; and Albert Soto, freshman, mechanical engineering. A&M-Commerce Fluorescent Microscopy Using LEDs Team designed and built a portable fluorescent microscope for counting bacteria. The team submitted their presentation but was not able to attend due to class conflicts. They developed a prototype, automated the sample analysis and investigated the confirmation of the specificity of bacterial detection. Currently they are working towards testing the prototype in NASA's microgravity environment. The team, led by Dr. Frank Miskevich, includes Jeremy Harr, Tiffany Selvidge, Sophie Metafaria and Dale Moore. For more information on the SEI program, contact Director Magda Lagoudas at m-lagoudas@tamu.edu or visit http://sei.tamu.edu.

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