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UCF students proved they have the brightest minds at the 2022 NASA MINDS design competition. This year, two teams from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering participated and took home a total of five awards, including the grand prize.

Team SenseAid was named the First Place Senior Grand Champion and received a $5,000 award for its prototype 3D printer that can function in microgravity. The printer uses resin ink rather than thermoplastic ink, so that a wide array of functional materials can be printed in space, no matter what the mission demands. The team was led by Associate Instructor Kurt Stresau and aerospace engineering student Dylon Lyon and includes student Norrel Thomas, Alexander Cabezas, Jonathan Chambers, Robert Llewellyn, Tatianna Gary and Robert Trautwein.

Not to be outdone by any other university, UCF also took the second-place title. Team Dr. Regolith, which studied the properties of lunar regolith, was named the Second Place Senior Team and received a $2,500 prize. That team was led by Professor Seetha Raghavan and aerospace engineering student Perla Latorre Suarez and includes students Luiz Sotomayor Garcia, Isaac Turner, Jamie Michelich and Lauren Bansberg.

“Representing UCF as a finalist in the NASA MINDS competition was an outstanding accomplishment and truly a dream come true,” Bansberg said. “I could not be more proud of our team and all the hard work they dedicated to this project.”

Team Regolith
Team Dr. Regolith. From left: Isaac Turner, Jamie Michelich, Luiz Sotomayor Garcia, Lauren Bansberg

The teams also took home the top prizes in two other categories. Dr. Regolith placed first in the Systems Engineering Paper category and won another $500, while SenseAid took third place in the same category. SenseAid also won the top spot in the Technical Poster category and an additional $500 award.

Forty student teams from colleges and universities across the nation participated in this year’s NASA MINDS event, but only seven teams made it to the finals. MINDS, which stands for Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Innovative New Designs for Space, is considered to be more of a hands-on learning experience than a competition. The student teams are allowed to work on a technology of their choosing, provided it pertains to the Artemis mission. Only Minority Serving Institutions are eligible to participate.

Garcia said the experience had a positive impact on himself and his teammates, and hopes that future UCF students follow their lead.

“To be highly recognized for our professional achievements by such prestigious personnel from NASA is career- and life-impacting,” Garcia said. “I am extremely proud of our team and the work we have accomplished. We are flattered to continue enriching UCF’s involvement in space exploration and hope to inspire future students to participate and add on to this legacy.”