'Hokienauts' finalists in NASA competition

Students design digital display screen for astronaut helmets

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech computer science major Samat Imamov and a team of fellow Hokies are one of 12 teams selected as finalists in a NASA competition to create a digital display screen for the visors on astronauts' helmets.

"The astronauts will be able to read their tasks more conveniently and in a more fluent way," Imamov said.

The Hokienauts, as the students call themselves, spent several months earlier this year coming up with their design.

The display system is controlled by wires in a glove connected to a chest harness.

"This chest piece has a microcontroller and it can track the movement of the body. That's why it's on the chest. With the button, the user will be able to switch between the head lock mode and the body lock mode," Imamov explained. "Also, the glove has a resistance module, where users will be able to tap. We tied it to different commands on the interface."

Virginia Tech assistant graphic design professor Meaghan Dee helped form the team after another professor, Dr. Wallace Lages -- an assistant professor in the university's creative technologies program, asked her last fall if she would be interested in entering the competition.

"This really feels like the embodiment of 'beyond boundaries' you hear people talking about all the time at Virginia Tech; about interdisciplinary commmunication and making things happen. We really did pull students from different colleges together and they worked together beautifully," Dee said.

Dee said NASA may use all or part of any team's design.

"I think regardless of whether we win, I think this was a success," she said.

"It gives us an opportunity to work even further with our interface and help NASA," Imamov said of potentially winning the competition.

The team is already thinking about entering next year's competition.

To learn more about the team's design, click here.