NASA Texas Space Grant Consortium Design Challenge

Student participants at NASA competitionA team of students from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi took home major awards at the NASA TSGC Design Challenge (November 14-15, 2022) in Houston, TX. The team, which named themselves the Council of Jedis, was awarded the Top Design Team award for their project titled “Modular Reconfigurable Lighting System for Spacecraft Habitats Beyond Low Earth Orbit.” They received first-place awards for their model/display/prototype, oral presentation, and peer review, and third place for the poster. The team ranked 1st place among 18 participating teams, and each team member was awarded a $1,000 scholarship.

The team was comprised of TAMU-CC mechanical engineering majors Dalton Gibbons ’22, Maria Rodriguez ’22, Randall Sanchez ’22, and Cesar Vasquez ’22; and mechanical engineering technology major Kimberly Lopez ’22. They were advised by Dr. Jose Baca, TAMU-CC Electrical Engineering Assistant Professor and NASA mentor Toni Clark.

In this competition, teams from different universities designed a project from a list of selected NASA topics. The topic chosen by the Council of Jedis was to adjust and adapt the lighting system in the International Space Station for interior and exterior exploration activities. This was the second time that the Council of Jedis participated in this competition. The first time was the previous semester, in spring 2022, and with the same topic. During the spring competition, they created a prototype that was portable, easily modified, repairable, and task adaptable. In the earlier competition, students obtained fourth place for the top design, second place for their poster, and second place for the model/display/prototype, and each member received a $500 scholarship. At their first competition, NASA engineers and student peers gave the team feedback which they used to improve their project.

During the fall competition, the team improved their prototype by creating a smaller and more compact version and added lights that dim. The lights mimicked the movement of the sun which is meant to help with the astronauts’ circadian rhythm. In addition, they added a manual that explained how to assemble the light system.

”The competition helped me work as a team and challenge myself to achieve the same goal as everyone else,” Sanchez said.

Gibbons noted that he valued the communication he had with his team.

“The competition taught me that you have to make contributions; you have to work with your team and communicate with your team, and respect your team. You also have to understand that not everybody's ideas are always going to come to fruition,” Gibbons said. “It's all a contribution to the same goal, and I feel that this process made me not only a better engineer but also a better person.”