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Ai Students Rise to the Challenge of Designing for Outer Space

By: Georgia Schumacher Filed under: Interior & Product Design

June 1, 2017

At The Art Institutes system of schools, we’re all about preparing students to solve tough, real-world challenges, even when that means designing for one of the most extreme environments in existence: outer space. 

Just last year, in spring 2016, three Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design students from The Art Institute of Seattle traveled to Houston, Texas, to compete in NASA’s Micro-g NExT contest, holding their own among teams from Columbia, Cornell, and other elite U.S. institutions.

Upon first deciding to join the Micro-g NExT competition, students Maddy Balmer, Adrian Galvan and Blake Maurer (Bachelor of Science, Industrial Design)—guided by faculty advisor Zanetka Gawronski—were tasked with creating a tool that would address an authentic, current space exploration problem. Together, they decided to design a core sampling device that could collect soil samples for NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission

Working within a long list of requirements, they began their work, eventually developing a comprehensive presentation of their research, development, design, and future plans. The team submitted their proposal in October 2015 and eagerly awaited NASA’s response.

In December, they received the response they wanted. After reviewing their proposal, NASA invited the Ai Seattle team to move forward with building and testing their prototype at the famed Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Texas. Of all the teams selected for this prestigious next step, Ai Seattle was the only team to consist of students studying design, with the other teams coming from traditional science and engineering programs.

Once at the Space Center, the team developed their prototype with support and mentorship from NASA engineers and microgravity experts, before watching NASA professional divers run the prototype through a series of tests. While not every aspect of the prototype was a success during testing, the team’s understanding of human-centered design and careful attention to detail made a strong impression on NASA.

To learn more, watch Maddy, Adrian, and Blake describe their experience designing for NASA below.


This summer, a second group of Ai Seattle students, Brodie Knight, Kelly Frost, Daniel Norberg, and Matthew Koch (Bachelor of Science, Industrial Design), will follow in the footsteps of last year’s team as they visit the Neutral Buoyancy Lab to test another device. This time, the students are developing and testing a design for an anchoring device that can attach or grip to the surface of celestial bodies in microgravity environments. Stay tuned for more information on these students and their work with NASA!

See http://ge.artinstitutes.edu/programoffering/1817 for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.


By: Georgia Schumacher Filed under: Interior & Product Design

June 1, 2017

industrial design industrial designer