SUA STEM Team Advances to Second Level in NASA Project
St. Ursula Academy

The St. Ursula Academy Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Club is in the second level of competition for the NASA WEAR contest, which challenges teams to design wearable radiation countermeasures for deep space exploration. 

Before the COVID-19 virus paused the competition, the SUA team invented a creative and viable design for a space garment to be worn by astronauts on the Artemis voyage to Mars. Now that the contest has resumed and SUA’s design has progressed to the second round of the competition, students are refining the garment, creating a promotional video for the product, and keeping tabs on the possibilities of presenting their design to NASA officials in person.

In its garment design—which resembles a long down vest—the team used recyclable polyethylene pellets packed into mesh pockets that covered the garment; the mesh keeps the astronauts cool by allowing air to flow through the material. The team placed a solar particle eruption (SPE) detector under the pockets to warn the astronauts if any radiation seeped through. A sash, which can be cinched at the waist, helps create a comfortable fit. A special feature of the garment is its ability to be multifunctional. The suit can transform to serve as a blanket, pillow, room divider/privacy curtain, bag, and cover for any object. The pellets can be replaced any time; they can also be removed from the pockets of the garment to fill containers to provide radiation protection for food, water. and technology. Astronauts could also use the garment in a variety of ways after landing on Mars, such as creating a greenhouse covering or protecting other tools and technologies from radiation.

The garment might weigh as much as 35 pounds on Earth, but it will be weightless and comfortable in space.

SUA Science teacher and STEM moderator Jackie Kane is working with team leader Tiare Nicholas-Bublick ’21, Mariah Oberhaus ’21, Madeline Bumpus ’21, and Hannah Jeffrey ’22 on this project.

Mariah Oberhaus '21 modeling the team's garment design
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