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Montgomery College Team Earns Two Awards from Recent NASA MINDS Competition

Students were tasked with creating technologies needed for NASA’s Artemis mission

A team of Montgomery College (MC) students earned two awards from the 2023 NASA MINDS competition, held in May. The “MC UV” team was recognized with second place in the overall competition (complete design, build, and presentation), and a third-place award for their technical paper. The entire MC team is made up of dual enrollment students majoring in engineering. You can watch the team’s submission video here, which captures the project from start to finish.

NASA Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Innovative New Designs for Space (NASA MINDS) is a multi-semester undergraduate level activity that supports the Artemis mission and the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD) and Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD). Students’ skills, creativity and innovation are challenged as they are asked to design and build technologies needed for NASA’s Artemis mission, with the support of their faculty.

“Competing in the NASA MINDS challenge stimulated inquiry and innovation among the team members as they worked together to complete an interdisciplinary project,” said Dr. Muhammad Kehnemouyi, interim vice president and provost, Germantown Campus and STEM unit. “The students’ hard work, persistence and creativity enabled them to contribute a viable solution to a real-world problem – experiential learning at its best. That they won second place is icing on the cake.”

The MC team focused on using UV-C light to enhance the water purification systems used on NASA spacecraft. This was the culmination of a year-long project focused on undergraduate research and experiential learning. 

“Participating in the NASA Minds competition was an exciting, challenging, and rewarding experience,” said Caitlin Spendley, a member of the MC team. “This was my first time working on a large-scale engineering project and I learned numerous lessons in design, building, and teamwork. Working on this project also fostered and strengthened my relationships with my peers and the faculty at MC. Overall, this experience has inspired me to continue pursuing a career in engineering.”

The team was mentored by two MC faculty members, Dr. David Kuijt and Dr. Ishrat Rahman. Dr. Kuijt focused on engineering and computer science while Dr. Rahman mentored the students on the biological sciences components of the project.

Jia Xi Lin, another member of the team, is a rising senior at Northwest High School and also part of Montgomery College's Dual Enrollment Program. Like many engineering projects, Xi Lin said the beginning of the NASA Minds concept was a balance of stressful planning and exciting designing. “Even though most of us were in a foreign position (being new Montgomery College students and having this as our first big-scale engineering project), these factors only pushed us to keep going,” she said.

Xi Lin appreciated getting support from MC faculty and said they were also privileged to work with the MC facilities team.

“Despite the project's ups and downs, I really enjoyed being a part of NASA Minds and gained so much valuable experiences, both technical and soft skills,” she added. “Personally, I think the most enjoyable part of this project was being able to design each compartment with a team of engineering enthusiasts. However, this project overall definitely showed me the fun side of engineering outside of the classroom experience.”

More than 30 teams from a variety of 2-year and 4-year institutions participated in this competition. The MC team was one of five teams invited to the final level, presenting their project to a panel of NASA scientists and engineers. Visit the NASA MINDS website for a full list of award winners.