Education-Supported Research: Looking for Synergies between Classroom and Laboratory



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


48th International Conference on Environmental Systems


In the current environment, it is harder than ever to maintain a stable research program in the university environment. This is particularly true in technology areas such as space suits and space robotics, since much of NASA's support in these topics has been sequestered in-house, and few open calls for these research areas have been released in recent years. In this environment, the University of Maryland Space Systems Laboratory has focused on using academic programs to continue and expand research opportunities, using external competitions and limited discretionary funds, while enhancing the educational experience for students. This paper reviews current and past examples, including a volunteer team that developed a functional spacesuit for neutral buoyancy which initiated an entire research program in the lab; senior capstone design teams developing concepts for space utility vehicles, small pressurized rovers, and robotic assistance systems for planetary surface exploration; freshman project teams designing and prototyping innovative airlock designs and internal accommodations for crew in small spacecraft; and multiyear honors programs developing techniques for 3D-printed spacesuit components and advanced controls and displays for suits. The role of NASA educational competitions such as RASC-AL and X-Hab is also discussed as important motivators and enablers for large student projects. While strong external support for research in these areas would be preferable, this approach allows research to continue while greatly augmenting engineering education.


David Akin, University of Maryland
ICES307: Collaboration, Education and Outreach, and Public Engagement
The 48th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA on 08 July 2018 through 12 July 2018.


Engineering education, space suits, space robotics, team competitions, student research