Boise State research team works on space exploration design solutions

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NASA is most commonly recognized for its work to discover new life within Earth’s solar system. Its research teams are tasked with fine tuning the details to make that mission, at least mechanically, possible. One of those research teams resides here at Boise State University.

Microgravity University is NASA’s group of undergraduate research teams with branches all over the United States. Boise State’s group is part of the Microgravity Neutral Buoyancy Experimental Design Team (Micro-G NExT). Its goal is to design solutions for a space exploration challenge using creativity and engineering.

These solutions are chosen by the Micro-G NExT team from a list of challenges provided by NASA. This year, the team chose to take on the challenge of designing a leak repair system to be used for the outside of the International Space Station.

Once each team chooses a challenge, the Team Leader has to draft a proposal, submit the proposal and wait one month to hear back on whether their design idea has been accepted.

Photo by Shannon Brennan.

After being accepted, the team builds their prototype, and a flight team is sent to Houston, Texas to test their design in a simulation of the International Space Station, also known as the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL).

Boise State’s team has sent flight teams to Houston with accepted designs every year for the past nine years, making them one of the most successful design teams since the beginning of the program.

The Team Leader, Marcus Marosvari, a junior Mechanical Engineering major, believes Micro-G NExT is more than just a research team.

“Coming into college, (I was) looking for a way to apply myself. (The group) promotes networking, and I’ve met many new professors and students since I joined,” Marosvari said.

While this may not be everyone’s experience, the members said they believe the group is unique on Boise State’s campus.

Group members believe the work Micro-G NExT does is bigger than just this university. The final product is generated with the intention to possibly be used by NASA sometime in the future. With one business major in the mix, members aren’t required to strive for an engineering career to participate.

“We accept everyone, so if anyone wants to join next year, feel free,” said sophomore material science engineering major Olivia Maryon. “(The group is) really fun, and it is so exciting to see the team get an acceptance.”

Formation of the team begins in late August, but they don’t have long to prepare for the mission set before them. The deadline is Nov. 1 to submit a worthy proposal, and team members put their thinking caps on for months to keep up with ever-changing designs in order to choose the perfect fit for their challenge. The team only meets twice a week as a whole, but they also  work outside of the classroom environment. For Microgravity University, no day of the week is off limits, meaning students meet in small groups constantly to work out details of their design for the NASA proposal.

Photo by Taylor Humby.

In three words, Marosvari describes the group as “curious, imaginative and passionate,” while Maryon opts for terms like “supportive, enthusiastic, and ambitious.” With ever-changing challenges—last year’s design was a module to remove core samples from asteroids—the research team must be adaptive to new challenges and environments.

Microgravity University may be a lesser known group on our campus, but it has a national backing that has been talked about within the nation for decades.

The group meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Engineering Room 313, you can watch the magic (or mechanics) unfold. Visiting students might find this to be the group for them next year.

“There’s never a dull moment, and (it’s rewarding) to know that the thing we are doing, the thing we are building, is something that might actually be used in the future,” Maryon said.

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