TWU’s all-female design contest team scores big and brings research to life


TWU’s The Oneiroi (Andrea Kim, Andrea Martinez, Natalie Wilkinson, Melanie Meek and Casey Rice)

November 22, 2021—DENTON—Five Texas Woman kinesiology seniors turned classroom theories into a real-world device and won multiple awards by participating in the Introducing the Texas Space Grant Consortium Design Challenge November 16-17. Team TWU, named The Oneiroi, was the only all-female team competing and won Best Overall Team, as well as Best Poster, Best Peer Review, and Best Video. The team also placed second overall in the presentation category. All five team members are graduating in December 2021.

The NASA-sponsored TSGC Design Challenge offers undergraduate students the opportunity to propose, design, and manufacture a solution to solve research goals important to NASA and its mission. The 19 competing university teams participated virtually in a live oral presentation and question-and-answer session with the judges after submitting a poster, a mid-term report and Video presentation. They also submitted a final report after the competition.

TWU Fall 2021 TX Design Challenge Team

The TWU Team, consisting of Texans Natalie Wilkinson (Team Leader, Cypress), Melanie Meek (Research Manager, Allen), Andrea Martinez (Design Manager, Dallas), Casey Rice (Design/Research, Waco) and Andrea Kim (design/research, Flower Mound) – decided to tackle the problem of circadian desynchronization, which is the disruption of the sleep/wake cycle, in astronauts. This is often due to inappropriate lighting conditions caused by a change from the normal 24-hour light/dark cycle seen in Earth’s atmosphere and a lack of additional exposure to sufficient light intensities during waking episodes. . When the circadian rhythm is disturbed, negative changes can be observed in general mental, physical and behavioral processes.

The TWU team’s solution to this problem was to build an individualized, wearable light therapy treatment device that effectively recalibrates the astronauts’ sleep/wake cycle. The device emits a specific color and intensity for set periods of time to help with circadian training and promote alertness.

“Drawing inspiration from current technology available to people with seasonal affective disorder and circadian disorders on Earth, while taking into account the constraints of the International Space Station (ISS) environment and equipment, the “Team was able to determine the ideal features needed for an individualized, wearable, wearable light therapy treatment,” Wilkinson said.

Fall 2021 TWU Team Device

Taking the form of goggles, the team’s device not only allows the wearer to comfortably perform daily tasks with additional padded support while receiving therapy, but also allows for greater energy conservation on board. the ISS because it does not require as much power as the currently implemented one. lighting systems. The coding and design of the device is also designed to be personally controlled by each astronaut and is complete with wireless charging capabilities. Finally, the lighting specs included in the goggles were short-wavelength blue light, as this color and intensity can “enhance alertness and performance and have a powerful effect in resetting the circadian clock.” , according to a 2016 study by Harbaugh.

After building their prototype, the team began testing it using heart rate variability (HRV), an objective measure used to determine readiness to perform daily or physical activities; an electroencephalogram (EEG) recording to test participants’ brain waves before and after light therapy; and a NASA-developed Psychomotor Vigilance Test (PVT) that includes a reaction self-test, a sleep diary, and a questionnaire called the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale.

The team was divided into two parts: a design team that focused on researching which products to use to ensure the aesthetics and effectiveness of the prototype, and a research team that collected and documented research to support the project and the design.

For the competition, the team chose a unique name and designed a patch to represent and reflect who they are. The Oneiroi, led by Morpheus, were considered the spirits, daimones, or dream gods in Greek mythology. They were said to be useful messengers for the gods, even Zeus took advantage of them to convey instructions to mortals while they slept.

“We chose this ancient group to represent us because just as they were powerful minds that controlled and manipulated the dreams of mortals, we similarly work to control the sleep patterns of astronauts,” Wilkinson said. “Because the Oneiroi were part of ancient Greek mythology, we chose to incorporate a mixture of Geometric, Archaic, Hellenistic and Classical styles frequently seen in ancient Greek art into the design of our crest. The protruding wing of the face on our crest symbolizes Morpheus, the leader of the Oneiroi, as well as TWU’s winged mascot, the owl.

Although it was a huge challenge, the team gained valuable experience and skills that they will take with them in their future careers, while successfully representing TWU.

“The amount of knowledge needed to complete this project was quite significant,” said Rhett Rigby, PhD, associate professor and faculty advisor. “Advanced concepts of physiology, engineering, physics and computer science were applied by each member of the group at various times during this semester. The final product is very impressive, and I was honored and privileged to help mentor this group through the process from idea generation to product testing.

Abdul J. Gaspar