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SUITS team to virtually present heads-up display technology to NASA panel

NASA SUITS students participating in the design challenge. Photo credit, Josh Valcarcel

Although COVID-19 has led to the cancellation of many important events, it was incapable of shelving Boise State student’s enthusiasm to develop spacesuit technology for the NASA Spacesuit User Interface Technology for Students (SUITS) challenge. The Bronco NASA SUITS team of 12 presented their work to a panel of NASA and industry leaders from their home turf on Thursday, June 11.

This is the third year that Boise State students have been working on ARSIS, or Augmented Reality Space Informatics System for astronauts’ space suits. This heads-display empowers astronauts to be able to both perform tasks and communicate with Mission Control, explained Boise State team lead Olivia Thomas, a senior double majoring in computer science and games, interactive media and mobile technology.

Utilizing Hololens technology, the team is dedicated to helping NASA finds solutions to challenging problems. The NASA SUITS challenge is part of the Artemis Student Challenges program, whose end goal is to provide students with experience and opportunities to shape the technology that will be used by the Artemis Program.

Group stands together discussing system, one man wears virtual reality headset
The team discussing the user interface of the heads-up display ARSIS 2.0 system, photo provided by NASA

“We are working on the cutting edge, on a couple of different levels. First, we are grappling with open-ended questions that NASA and others in industry are still trying to figure out the answers to. Second, we are dealing with technologies that are both new and constantly changing. This is challenging but also exciting! The work certainly never ceases to be interesting,” said Thomas.

Traditionally, the team would have the opportunity to present and test their technology at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. However due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and concerns, more than 20 teams will be presenting virtually from their home locations. Despite this change in plans, Thomas says that the experience of being a part of SUITS has been unforgettable.

“I am so proud of the work that we have done on ARSIS these past three years,” she said. “It represents a bunch of passionate and capable people coming together, a ton of learning, countless late nights, friendships forged over our struggles and our victories, and ultimately a result I never would have imagined was possible at the beginning. I’ve enjoyed every minute of being part of this and I am so happy to be able to present the culmination of our work to NASA.”