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RIT Students Helping to Shape Future Spacewalk Training

NASA's Micro-g NExT activity

The MMET NASA Micro-g NeXT team of undergraduate students is one of 25 advancing to the testing phase in NASA’s Micro-g Neutral Buoyancy Experiment Design Teams – Micro-g NExT – activity. They’ll spend the next several months building their prototypes and preparing for the test, which will take place in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL), a 40-feet deep pool where astronauts train for spacewalks. Teams will travel to Houston, TX in late spring/early summer of 2016 for the test.

The tools designed for Micro-g NExT address an authentic, current space exploration problem – asteroid sample collection for NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, in which humans will visit a portion of an asteroid that will be brought into lunar orbit. Upon successful testing, these student-designed tools have the possibility of being used by the astronauts for future training as NASA prepares for the mission.

The Rochester Institute of Technology team is comprised of six Mechanical Engineering Technology Students led by faculty advisor Mark Olles Ph.D. Members of the team include Scott Bell, Christian Pape, Jacob Shawley, David Simpson, Daniel Vasconcellos, and Drew Walters.

The team made their success by submitting a design proposal by the name of ORCHID, or Optimizing Retrieval & Containment, Hand Initiated Device. The device’s purpose is to acquire float samples from the asteroid’s surface and contain them so that they can be analyzed at a later time.

As of now the RIT team is on schedule to test during the second allocated test week designated by NASA. Currently they are set to travel to Houston the week of the 23rd of May.

Micro-g NExT is managed by the Office of Education at Johnson. The program helps support the agency's education policy of using NASA's unique missions and programs to engage and encourage students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

To learn more about Micro-g NExT, visit:

To learn more about NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, visit:

For social media updates, follow: @NASAedu and #MicrogNExT

For more information about NASA’s education programs, visit:

For more information about NASA EVAs, visit:





    Drew Walters

Drew Walters is a 3rd year student at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is pursuing degrees in Mechanical Engineering Technology and in Manufacturing and Mechanical Systems Integration. He is involved in design, outreach, and safety on the RIT MMET NASA Micro-g NExT team and in charge of finance. He gained an interest in robotics as a member of his highschool's FIRST robotics team. He is also interested in the future applications of additive manufacturing, both in industrial and private environments. In his free time over the winter, Drew enjoys skiing in New York and Vermont. 




   Scott Bell

Scott Bell is a third year student at Rochester Institute of Technology pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology. He has worked on commercial and residential HVAC repair, an Engineering Intern at PRS Guitars, a part-time machine shop Lab Manager, and most recently a Learning Assistant for multivariable calculus and differential equations. He looks forward to a co-op with Northrop Grumman in the summer of 2016. Scott has recently contributed to an orthopedic research paper studying the movements of joints in the hand with respect to different medical conditions. Continuing to expand his skill set into digital image processing, Scott is also enthusiastic to start research with Elite Archery. In the future, he plans to continue his studying and graduate with his Master’s degree in Mechanical Manufacturing Systems Integration.


    Christian Pape

Christian Pape is a second year Mechanical Engineering Technology student at RIT, who is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is involved in numerous teams and groups in the RIT community, such as Baja and the NASA Micro-g NExT team. For this project, he is the Construction Lead and is also in charge of the social media portion of the project. His engineering interests lie within the aerospace and ballistic engineering fields, and he would like to pursue these in the future.






    Jacob Shawley

Jacob Shawley is a third year Mechanical Engineering Technology student at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Currently he is acting as the lead of design including solid-modeling, FEA, and other analyses to be done before testing. His interests lie in the aerospace and automotive fields of engineering. These interests stem from his fascination of the military and military aircraft as well as his personal experience with autocross and his love for motors. He is also working to improve his knowledge on aerogels as he has a growing interest in explosives.





    David Simpson

David Simpson is a third year student working toward a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Interested in the Materials and Bio-mechanical fields David is also involved in a number of engineering clubs at RIT, including the RIT Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Driven by his passion for exploring new and innovative technologies he is looking forward to developing prototypes and having the opportunity to work with the advanced testing facilities NASA has available. David is currently heading up the materials testing/selection and community outreach aspects of the project.




    Daniel Vasconcellos

Daniel Vasconcellos is a third year Mechanical Engineering Technology student at the Rochester Institute of Technology pursuing a degree in Manufacturing & Mechanical Systems Integration. He is the team leader for the RIT MMET Micro-g NExT student team and involves himself in all aspects of the project as needed. The team is involved in the Float Sample Grabber project and was chosen to go on to the second phase of the project which includes travelling to Houston Texas at the end of next semester to test the device. Daniel has interests in the biomechanical field of study to improve test equipment and explore the possibilities of prosthesis. He currently does research under the advising of Mark Olles Ph.D. to advance surgery and test methods using the conclusions drawn from Joint Reaction Forces in the human body.


    Mark Olles, Ph.D. Assistant Professor

Mark Olles is a tenure-track Assistant Professor in this fourth year Manufacturing & Mechanical Engineering Technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is an alumnus of the MMET program and is the team adviser for the RIT MMET Micro-g NExT student team and is also involved with the RIT Baja team. His research interests include mechanics, bio-mechanics, energetics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, propulsion, bio-medical device design, analytical methods, and flight dynamics. He is currently researching joint reactive forces (pre and post operation), additive manufacturing, and reactive materials.







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