GGC students’ project proposals receive funding from NASA MINDS

Students Mark Stiller and Valerie Morse build a handheld device prototype for demonstrating contactless evaluation of structural damage.

Students Mark Stiller and Valerie Morse build a handheld device prototype for demonstrating contactless evaluation of structural damage(s).

Three teams of Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) students have received funding from NASA's Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Innovative New Designs for Space (MINDS), to design, build and test their innovative project ideas to support the Artemis Program, which aims to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024.

“The NASA MINDS-funded student projects affirm that GGC students are being nationally recognized for their excellence in STEM education, scholarly work and scientific merit,” said Dr. Sairam Tangirala, associate professor of physics.

NASA MINDS is not a competition but rather a hands-on, design-and-build learning experience. Teams in NASA MINDS independently select technology that is relevant to NASA's Artemis Program. This allows students to focus on technologies which interest and inspire them.

Tangirala is the mentor of one of the teams, consisting of junior applied mathematics major Marco Montero and sophomore IT major Ahkeelah Lindo. Their project proposes researching 3D printer designs that can be used in space. The project aims to strengthen the resilience of 3D-printed materials by changing the structure and/or the materials used to maximize strength, and increase usage of 3D-printed objects. 

Four students in masks with computers

Students Matthew Elenteny, Ikechukwu Okolocha, Tyler DeAustria and Aneri Amin explore ways to build a device for collecting and analyzing lunar dust particles.

These objects could range from tools, which would no longer need to be flown to space, to parts that may need to be replaced due to damage. The 3D-printed materials could be lighter, stronger, durable, and extend the length and safety of space-based activities. The project may allow NASA to recycle, reduce carrying capacity, replace overly weighted objects, and aid in the preparation of custom parts for its space missions. 

The second team, consisting of senior IT major Mark Stiller, junior biology Valerie Morse, and mentored by Dr. Tae Song Lee, assistant professor of physics, came up with a handheld device design that could be used to monitor Artemis vehicles for structural damage. 

Called Structural Analysis Using Contactless Evaluation, or SAUCE, the device looks a bit like a laser gun in an old science fiction movie, and combines multiple contactless technologies to remotely monitor the integrity of structures and other devices to provide early warning of potential structural failure. Designed to be used by humans or for autonomous monitoring, it uses color vision, infrared and vibration detection to detect cracks or deformities, monitor local hot and cold spots, and pick up stress irregularities on Artemis vehicles.

The third team, mentored by Dr. Joseph Ametepe, professor of physics, and Dr. Neelam Khan, associate professor of physics, with senior chemistry major Aneri Amin, freshman dual-enrollment student Tyler De Austria, sophomore mathematics major Matthew Elenteny and IT major Ikechukwu Okolocha, is building a device to collect and analyze lunar dust particles called the Lunar GGC. The team will design and build a dust chamber to allow for fabricating dust particles similar in size to those on the moon and Mars, with an electrostatic substrate to collect them. 

The moon has a unique surface due to its lack of atmosphere exposing it to micrometeorite bombardments, UV exposures from cosmic rays, and galactic cosmic radiations. The Lunar GGC team believes that such events may have significantly influenced the chemical reactivity of the lunar dust. The project aims to study lunar dust particles in an attempt to understand its chemical reactivity relevant to extended human exploration. 

Tangirala said the experience of working on these projects is invaluable for both students and mentors.

“For the students involved in these research projects, and others like them, GGC is providing an excellent academic environment coupled with an extremely engaging faculty to further their scientific curiosity, and passion for scientific exploration.”

Teams selected by NASA receive $1,500 each to be used in the building of their designs. Selected team projects will be reviewed by NASA judges, and can receive recognition awards up to $5,000.

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