Texas Woman’s University’s All-Female Team Competes in NASA-Sponsored TSGC Design Challenge

The five seniors majoring in kinesiology teamed up to create a solution for astronauts battling “space headaches.”

On Nov. 17 and 18, five Texas Woman’s University kinesiology seniors competed in the Texas Space Grant Consortium Design Challenge Showcase sponsored by NASA.
The only all-female team in the competition and first all-female TWU team named Athena V placed fourth overall in the competition in which students were given the opportunity to propose, design, and fabricate a solution toward solving research objectives important to NASA and its mission.

“In our third year of competing in this Design Challenge, we have once again set the bar high for future teams at TWU,” associate professor and faculty advisor Dr. Rhett Rigby said. “I am very proud of the work that this team accomplished this semester. The ability to apply theories from the classroom to a multi-disciplinary project is not an easy task. These young women faced challenges head-on this semester and produced an elegant solution to a longstanding problem facing astronauts.”

The TWU team consisting of Lexi D’Abrosca, Cheyenne Allen, Madilyn Sieber, Morgan Beckman, and Karis Nowell tasked themselves with the issue of uneven blood distribution in a microgravity environment that causes intracranial pressure—better known as “space headaches”—to astronauts.

Their solution was to construct a double-layer compression and heated calf sleeve to increase blood flow to lower extremities and alleviate headaches experienced during weightlessness.

“After determining the associated factors related to the occurrence, our team identified a plausible method of preventing them by the way of heat,” said D’Abrosca in a statement. “Once we calculated the prospective parameters for heat, our team produced a prototype garment that houses a heating system and microcontrollers.”
The prototype was created using a heating device, a temperature sensor, and a rechargeable battery, with the base of the sleeve being made from nylon and spandex that astronauts can wear on both calves. After constructing the device, Athena V successfully tested the sleeve using a heat gun in extreme temperatures and determined the device was an “appropriate platform for future enhancement, scalability and testing, which will be done with different students on the spring 2021 semester team,” according to a statement.
“Being a part of the first all-female TSGC design team was not only a privilege, but an honor. I believe we were able to embody our team name and mascot, Athena, as we combined our knowledge and creativity into our project,” Nowell said in a statement. “I am extremely proud of all we were able to accomplish given the current COVID situation.”

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