What is their Laker Effect?
A group of Grand Valley State University students is reaching for the stars by working with NASA to build a device that can be used during future space missions. The group Grand Valley North Stars is participating in the Micro-g NExT Design Challenge, which calls for college students across the country to submit design proposals for one of three tools that will be used for NASA's asteroid redirect mission in the early 2020s and its journey to Mars in the 2030s. The North Stars chose to write a proposal for the surface sampling derive tool. In December, the group's idea was one of 30 proposals that were selected to move on to the second phase of the competition. In May, the team will travel to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to present and test their prototype. "The goal is to build a device that can contain multiple samples of surface particles to be examined and studied at a later time," said Brianna Forsthoefel, North Stars team member and mechanical engineering major. "It's an honor to be chosen to participate in this competition." The team is currently building the device in Keller Engineering Labs on Grand Valley's Pew Grand Rapids Campus. Students used CAD software to design the device based on size, weight and cross-contamination specifications. They used a 3-D printer to create pieces of the prototype. Dylan DiGiovanni, a fourth-year student majoring in product design and manufacturing engineering, said his classes prepared him for this exciting mission. "The engineering curriculum and its focus on developing problem-solving skills helped us prepare for this project," he said. "Being successful in engineering courses requires a lot of motivation and problem solving, which have been crucial during the design and prototype phases of this competition." During their time in Houston, team members will test the device in the mission control center and direct underwater divers on how to use the tool in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, which closely mimics a zero-gravity environment. Amy Lenz, visiting faculty member of mechanical engineering, serves as the group's faculty advisor. She said mentorship has been an important part of the design and build phases. The group has held Skype sessions with an engineer from NASA, who has provided feedback and guidance during the process. In total, 26 teams will compete on May 23; the North Stars will compete with six other teams in the service sampling derive tool category. North Star team members are Forsthoefel, DiGiovanni, Benjamin Cousino, Nate Kyburz, Taylor Rieckhoff, Daniel Scheske and Jacob Stephens. Follow the team's progress on Twitter at @The_NorthStars. For More Information Contact: Leah Twilley in University Communications - 616-331-2221