From classroom to cosmos: San Jac students compete in Texas Space Grant Consortium Design Challenge

Jan 4, 2024Melissa Trevizo
Apollo 24
Apollo 24 team

In fall 2023, a group of six San Jacinto College North Campus students competed in the Texas Space Grant Consortium 2023 Design Challenge sponsored by NASA for over $10,000 in scholarships.

This unique academic experience offers undergraduate students an opportunity to propose, design, and fabricate a solution toward solving research objectives important to NASA and its mission.

The San Jac team competed against 17 other groups from 13 Texas higher education institutions, including two other community colleges. Each team chose a NASA topic and developed a design idea from that prompt.

The team — students in professor Kazi Rashed’s introduction to engineering course — chose the name Apollo 24 to represent their collective of two women and four men.

Apollo 24 Design Team:

  • Avery Burton
  • Oscar Camargo
  • Ruth Garcia
  • Silvestre Morfin, team deputy
  • Jocelyn Rodriguez, team leader
  • Alexander San Miguel

Even though it was her first semester at San Jac, Rodriguez was happy to lead the team.

“When Dr. Rashed announced the competition, we just kind of looked around at each other and formed groups,” Rodriguez said. “It’s exciting to be working on something that NASA scientists saw. It’s kind of a dream for all of us.”

The team chose to address the design needs of the NASA microgravity neutral buoyancy experiment, specifically creating a hand carrier for lunar extravehicular activity tools. The toolbox design went through several mockups before the team landed on its final entry.

“One of the challenges we faced was creating a functional design without pinch points that could cause a tear in a spacesuit,” Camargo said. “We initially thought about a scissor lift, but Avery suggested a lever system. Silvestre made our scale models out of cardboard, and Ruth created the triangular design. I created our team flight patch. We all pulled from our previous knowledge and shared equally.”

Morfin attended San Jac as a dual credit student in auto collision repair. Still, after working with machines for several years, he became curious about their designs and how they work. He’s now pursuing an associate degree in engineering at San Jac.

“I started sketching designs at work and shared them with the engineers,” Morfin said. “It made me excited to do what they do one day.”

Garcia became interested in engineering while working as a fire watch in the oil and gas industry.

“I watched them pour concrete and looked at the design plans. I wanted to know what would be built,” Garcia said. “I could see the full vision, and I found the idea of seeing a project to completion fascinating.”  

The team presented their designs and research to NASA and Texas Space Grant Consortium personnel in November at the fall 2023 Design Challenge Showcase.

Learn more about the Texas Space Grant Consortium 2023 Design Challenge.

Apollo 24
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