Last week, I was invited to listen in on a Skype session as a group presented an idea and prototype they created bettering astronauts’ time in space to a retired NASA docent.
The group introduced themselves as elementary and middle school students who make up a First Lego League (FLL) team at Calvary Christian School in Taylor Mill, KY. They are the Calvary Christian Orbo-Bots. This 2018-2019 season, FLL challenged it’s teams to “Identify and solve a physical or social problem faced by humans during long durations of space exploration”. The Orbo-Bots answered in a big way!
The Orbo-Bots explained to the docent their research showed the main things astronauts miss while in space are a “hug from their families and a warm shower”. This led to what they call the “Space Shower Suit System”. As I watched, I was amazed at the groups’ ideas and the details they thought of. This especially amazed me as the group presenting was made up of all elementary and middle schoolers! Seven kids, aged 9-13 had created something the docent described as, “A workable idea they should pursue”.
The kids wrote the following description on how it works:
“Space Shower Suit System (S4) –
It is a suit like a loose fitting wet suit. The suit has 5 jets to pump water and soap onto the astronaut.
In addition, the jets will massage the astronaut’s muscles when they pump water over them. The suit also has a vacuum mechanism that suctions the water off the astronaut.
First, an astronaut puts on the suit and zips it up. Astronauts will wear a face mask to protect their faces.
Then the suit will spray a small amount of water onto the astronaut, followed by some liquid soap.
Next, the suit will spray a rinsing amount of water.
Then, the suit will vacuum the water off the astronaut.
Finally, the jets will blow air onto the astronaut to complete the drying process.
Once the water is removed, the astronaut steps out of the suit, re-zip it shut, and the jets repeat the process to clean the suit.
All the water is reclaimed and filtered through the space station’s existing water filtration system.” – Team Orbo-Bots
When the team explained why they thought the Space Shower Suit System was better than what is currently being used in space, they also shared that the only thing similar to have ever been used in space was on the SkyLab (Skylab Launched in 1973). The NASA docent then shared that he was the lead designer on a team of three who designed the shower system on Skylab! What.are.the.chances?? The odds of them randomly being connected with him was not lost on the kids.
Team Orbo-Bots think their system is better than what is currently being used in space because:
“Why is the S4 better than what is used now?
Astronauts miss showers.
There are mental benefits to having a shower and stimulating activities from back home.
There are physical benefits from having the jets massage the muscles, such as stimulating muscle atrophy.
This system is hygienic because it is self-cleaning after each use.
It has a small payload since astronauts can share the same suit.
There is no wasted water because it can all be cleaned. And this is a better solution because it is an enclosed system and does not risk water getting on the electronics.” -Team Orbo-Bots
You may have seen the team out and about presenting their idea around the area. They will take any opportunity to share their ideas!
I am blown away by these elementary/ middle schoolers! They have come up with a solution to a real-world problem that could actually be used in future space exploration. The Space Shower Suit System, along with their team work and robotic missions, has earned the team a spot in the KY state FLL challenge. Go team Orbo-Bots!
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What You Get When You Ask Middle Schoolers To Solve A Real-World Problem