The California Space Grant Consortium was proud to support two teams in their participation in the NASA Micro-G NExT Team Project. The UCLA Teams both did well and grew from the experience.
The excerpts below are from the reflections of some of the participating team members.
I was initially unsure about my career path when I found the Micro–g NExT program through Bruin Spacecraft Group at UCLA. None of my team members knew each other before working on this project; rather, we simply had a shared interest in space exploration. Micro–g NExT was a dominant part of my freshman year, and gave me the opportunity to not only learn, but also get hands-on experience with space research and engineering. The experience of designing, building and testing our device, while at times frustrating, renewed my determination to pursue engineering as a career.
Throughout the design process, I had the opportunity to develop both technical and communication skills. Proposing the initial device concept and writing documentation and reports allowed me to practice my technical writing and CAD skills on a large scale. We learned about time management: we spent too much time on designing and perfecting the device, when we should have been prototyping. I was often discouraged by our inability to meet milestones ahead of time. We worked until the last minute, sometimes sacrificing sleep to meet our goals. With much effort, however, we were able to integrate the different written and physical aspects of our project, just in time for test week. Whether it was building on existing knowledge in the field by applying methods described in papers, or disseminating our test results through the poster session and final presentation, we had the valuable opportunity to participate in the process of scientific research. I look forward to working in industry with professionals passionate about their own areas of expertise, such as the NASA engineers and mentors we worked with throughout the program. Chloe Liau
I had a wonderful experience with the Micro–G NExt project. It was the first project I undertook as an undergrad, and I met many good friends because of it. It also played a role in steering me toward space mission engineering as a career.
Our team faced many hardships with proper design and material choice, and in the end we had structural failure due to epoxy. Usually lack of team skills leads to the failure of other projects, however we never had that issue since we built good relations early on as a team. Our main issue was lack of technical expertise and experience. A uniquely solemn feeling overcame me seeing our device come apart in the diver’s hands as he tried to operate it. A grave silence filled my teammate and I as we watched our work unfold in the mission operation center. It’s frustrating to think that our device could’ve stayed together if we hadn’t used epoxy, but we all face failure on the road to success and we learn a lot from it. Not meeting our test objectives was a sobering experience and it brought us all together to find out what went wrong and what we could do better next time. Everyone on my team is now in a leadership position for the club (Bruinspace) we participated under for the project, and we all hope to share our knowledge with new members and guide them toward successfully reaching their objectives. Micro–G NExt has definitely helped us grow both as engineers and as leaders. Alexander Gonzalez
The California Space Grant congratulates both teams on their efforts.