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Virginia Tech’s HP-Intel team: Life in Space

In April 2016, NASA started a competition about improving life in space. They started about by choosing several HP ZBook laptops to work with, and also chose eight universities around the country to compete with each other. This included, Virginia Tech, University of Texas, Oregon State, Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Carnegie Mellon, and Arizona State. Each university was given seven weeks to research and develop a design. The submissions were voted on by judges and the public. The prize was 1 HP ZBook, and a 4-day trip to Orlando for a tour at Cape Canaveral and a day at Epcot.

The inVenTs community sponsored a team for the competition this spring. The team’s design was rather simple, but very useful. It consisted of “... a compact, modular toolbox that astronauts will be able to use both in and out of the International Space Station.”[1] The original design was a "toolbox that astronauts could use both inside and outside of the space station," said Hunter, a member of the team. However, they realized this was not feasible given the amount of time and their skill set so they came up with a new design - a modular toolkit as shown below.

The above images are concept images describing specifically how the toolbox would work. You can see in the left image several hex wrench sizes, along with various other tools. Each element on the toolbox is very modular with a standard connection bracket allowing for custom tools to be created and attached in addition to the ones shown.

Hunter also added the following: "While our team may not have won the competition, I'm still satisfied with the outcome. It was a great way to get to meet people I might not have met or interacted with otherwise, and as a team-building experience we all learned how to communicate and collaborate more effectively. We also had quite a bit of fun while working on the project; about half of the time spent during our meetings was on serious design discussion, while the rest of the time we'd joke around while working on the CAD files or conducting research."

If you're thinking about joining a design team or something similar, this just shows that all you can do is learn, so there's not really any reason not to. The whole idea by HP and Intel was to show what was possible with their “HP ZBook Mobile Workstations” by giving each of the teams this workstation to do all their work on. The images shown above started as very rough sketches, just as any design would, and then was created into CAD design files, along with writeups and a video for each team describing their project.


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