ISS Update: e-Textiles, Alerting Future Astronauts

ISS Update: e-Textiles, Alerting Future Astronauts


[Lynnette Madison] Lynnette Madison
here at NASA Johnson Space Center and I’m at a Wearable Technology Summit today,
or Wearable Technology Symposium where a group of University of Minnesota students
are here talking to NASA engineers and explaining how wearable technology or
e-textiles, I think it’s what they told me, can actually help NASA engineers
create futuristic spacesuits. So with me today are Grace Loreg and
Mai Yang and also Jessica Loomis. So Grace, you’re going to
be our spokesperson today. So tell me a little bit about
what your project was this, was it this semester, this past semester? [Grace Loreg] Yeah we’ve been working on
it the entire semester and our problem was to create a warning system for the astronauts to
wear in the space station that set off an alarm in all different levels of emergencies
with three different modalities. So we used visual, tactile
and audio alarm systems. [Lynnette] Okay, so this had to be
something that they could be lightweight so could fly it to the space station. It had to be wearable. Can you kind of tell me some of your challenges? [Grace] Well, a lot of the challenges came
in using fabrics that they could move well in but could also support the electronics
system that’s wired throughout it. And then also being able to channel it
through and you can see on here how we, where the light’s are located and the speakers
and the motors and how they have to go through the sleeves and all
the way back down into the pack that we have built into in
the back which is this. [Lynnette] So you’re all fashion designers, or this class was an apparel design
class from what I understand. Had you ever worked with electronics before? [Grace] No. [Lynnette] Was this a challenge for you? [Grace] Yes. But our professor’s really good at working
with all different kinds of e-textiles. She helped us a lot. [Lynnette] Was this a fun class? [Grace] Yeah. The beginning of the class is
a lot of learning about physics and human factors and stuff like that. So we had to integrate that into it. [Lynnette] And so that was not
something you had ever studied before. So physics is new to you. So tell me a little bit about
what you’ve created here. You’ve got a jacket? [Grace] Yes. [Lynnette] And what does it do? [Grace] Well, it has three
different levels of warnings, so kind of just to get someone’s
attention, and then a cautionary and then a high level of emergency warning. And there’s also one system built in where if we could only use two
modalities, they would be used. It’s a tactile and a visual
alert because visual is the sense that we use the most to get our attention. And then tactile is more like close to the body and you can capture attention maybe
quicker than if there was outside sound. And then there’s also a button where
the user can alert other astronauts on the, in the space station. So it has a light and a vibrating
motor on the shoulder to tap them on the shoulder and get their attention. And then also this tab is an
emergency, high-level warning emergency that they can set off themselves. [Lynnette] So let’s see a demonstration. [Grace] Okay. This is the lowest level and it’s
just a yellow light that’s on. So yellow is the most visually
stimulating color. They can see it but it also, we
intuitively read it as a caution so it’s not as high-level warning. And then the medium level, the lights start
to blink and there’s also, at the same time, there would be a beeping which
is not going off right now. And there’s motors vibrating on the back in
the same kind of pattern with the lights. So the blinking moves it to a
second-level of warning because it, it reestablishes the warning
every time it goes off. [Lynnette] So they’ll know that
it’s a more serious warning because you’re getting a
sound, you’re hearing a sound. You’re feeling something in your
back and you’re also seeing a lot. So what happens when you get
the really serious warning? [Grace] The highest warning, a red light
comes on, the beat becomes more frequent and so does the vibrating pattern on the back. And also red is the color
that we read as a warning. So that’s why we incorporated
that right into it. And then also this is the high-level
warning of just the two modalities. You can’t tell that the motors are going off. But they’re going off with the lights and
then, yeah, that’s the button that she can push to get the attention of the other
astronauts in the space station. And then if you were to pull
the tab this would happen. [Lynnette] Very good. So did you sew this yourselves? Did your, you all worked on this? And you all, you cut, did you design
the pattern, you cut it all out? How did you decide that? How did you put all of these electronics
into this very nice little jacket? [Grace] It was kind of a “learn
as we went” kind of a thing. We, first we had to plan out
kind of the wiring system. So initially we did testing to figure out the
placement of things and where they were best, where they best caught the
attention of the user. And then we patterned out wiring. So this is its own channel through
the arm to let the wiring go through. This yoke right here has wiring
that comes back through here. And then the back on both sides this channel
leads down into the pack in the back. So that was something we patterned right away. And then the gray fabric is stretch fabrics and
this had to be a woven so it couldn’t stretch. We wanted the user to be able to move
around a lot ’cause that’s how they get around space station is with their arms. So that’s why we incorporated
stretch fabric into there. And then also where the, where the
woven fabric is you put a lining inside and it also supports the wires
that go through the garment. [Lynnette] So you learned a lot about
electricity and a lot about making fashion. [Grace] Yes. Yeah and of course also along with that
we wanted to be aesthetically pleasing. So it kind of ended up being cool looking. [Lynnette] I think it is very cool looking. Well that sort of leads me to your
consumer product because you had to do something for NASA in your class. But you also had to make a consumer product. So this is very nice looking and what is that? [Grace] This is a biking jacket and
we tried to figure out some activity that someone would be doing where
they would want all three modalities, or where they would be useful. And so we either, the first thing that
came to my mind was biking because I feel that there’s a lot of miscommunication
between bikers and people on the road. So we put the lights in. This is on the right arm so it would be a
constant yellow light that would be on so that people in cars and other
bikers could see you, their arm when it was raised
signaling right or left. And then on the back there is,
this would be a constant red light. So kind of like the light that they put on
their bikes but it’s also on the garment. And then over right and left shoulder
lights so that they could push, there’s button on the left arm that they can use
to signal whether they’re going right or left. So it would flash. And then there’s also a motor built on
each shoulder so that they can either, if there biking with someone, whether
they’re in front or behind them, they can get their attention by just tapping one
and tapping their shoulder or one or the other to tell them that they’re turning right or left. There’s also a speaker built in. And the idea behind that would be, like
when you’re backing up your car and it beeps when you’re getting close to something
behind you, so the hopes would be that the speaker would be turned
on when there was a car approaching or something close behind
you and it would alert you. [Lynnette] So this is your consumer product. What is your next step? [Grace] Well from here and we can take
some classes, other classes offered by your professor, also offers the Human
Factors course so we could learn more of those things to incorporate into garments. And I also think there’s a Technical
Design class she’s teaching. And we’re working on our senior line
next year for our final project. And some students might incorporate some
of the things we learned here into that, like other active wear, other
functional design and stuff like that. [Lynnette] How many students are in your class? [Grace] There’s 16 I think. [Lynnette] Have you always worked on NASA
projects or have you done other things? [Grace] This is the first
year we worked with NASA. But previously they worked with
companies like Nike and 3M. [Lynnette] So when you work
with companies like 3M and Nike do you take those
products onto their company? Will this possibly be a NASA spacesuit
item or NASA, something that we would use on the International Space Station? [Grace] Well they’re prototypes
for them to work from. I don’t know if they’ll use the exact thing. But I know that there are certain
things that, maybe the placement or some of the intuitive things that
we built into it that they might add into things that they’re already working on. [Lynnette] Is it exciting to do something
like this, to work on actual project? [Grace] Yes. It was scary at first. [Lynnette] But you managed because you have
never done electrical design and all of that. Well that’s wonderful.

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