U of M Apparel Students Prepare to fly with NASA
Dr. Lucy Dunne - an associate professor in the College of Design - has received support in order to provide students the opportunity to work with NASA. In Dr. Dunne's Functional Apparel Design course last spring - funded by the Minnesota Space Grant Consortium - apparel students had the chance to redesign astronauts' gloves that currently leave their hands sweaty, prone to rashes, chafing, and even with delaminating fingernails. This year, they have expanded on that work and have been accepted into NASA's "Microgravity University" program to conduct an experiment in reduced-gravity conditions.
"This opportunity is really exciting for Apparel Design." said Dunne. "It's really hard to test functional clothing for space in earth gravity, because the conditions are so different. The program gives the students the chance to expand their skills in an entirely new, incredibly exciting direction."
The students are breaking new ground as the first ever all-apparel team. Participating in the program requires designing an experiment that can be safely flown aboard the zero-gravity simulator aircraft. The students had to put together extensive paperwork that involved free body diagrams, g-force calculations, and other matter that apparel students aren't usually familiar with - but engineering students are.
The group is expecting to test their experimental materials in NASA's reduced gravity airplane which simulates an astronauts experience in space. The students' experiment compares the moisture-transport capabilities of gloves made from traditional textiles as well as a superabsorbent crystal material, a microfluidic film (a wicking material), and a special pump created for the experiment.
"We are looking forward to understanding how these materials work," said Karen Fiegen, project leader. "Learning about moisture transport in zero gravity could have implications for both astronauts in outer space and earth-bound consumers."
After the experiment, the group will examine their results and share them with the broader community, including a group of middle school girls in the U of M's "Smart Clothing, Smart Girls" Summer Camp.