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TWU Students Excel in NASA-Sponsored Design Challenge

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DENTON, April 29, 2024 – A group of undergraduate kinesiology students from Texas Woman’s University (TWU) secured third place in a NASA-sponsored statewide design competition, marking another success in a series of high placements within a competitive engineering-focused contest.

The students, participating in their senior year at TWU, not only claimed third overall but also achieved first place in the poster category, second in peer review, and fourth in the model division at the Texas Space Grant Consortium Design Challenge Showcase. This event, which concluded on April 25, was held just outside of Houston.

Team members Joseph Mallillin, Jessica Brent, Alyssa Flores, Kenneth Ponitz, and Cally Wacaster were rewarded with scholarships for their impressive contributions to the competition. The project focused on developing a lightweight, compact exercise device designed to prevent muscle atrophy during long-distance spaceflights, an ongoing concern for astronauts.

Rhett Rigby, an associate professor of kinesiology at TWU and the team’s faculty advisor, expressed satisfaction with the team’s performance. “We placed well, and I felt the team learned so much this semester, which is what it is all about,” said Rigby.

Dubbed Team Atlas, the TWU group was the sole representative from a kinesiology department among the 18 competing college teams, which primarily consisted of engineering students. Their project, an enhancement of last semester’s prototype, introduced an upper-body component to complement the lower-body exercises, employing pneumatic technology for varied resistance in full-body workouts.

“This was one of those projects that was just so solid in all task-related aspects,” commented Rigby. “The idea was great, the improvements from last semester were intuitive, the team camaraderie was excellent, and their motivation was inspiring.”

Over the past 12 semesters, TWU teams have consistently performed well in this competition, placing in the top four on 10 occasions, with four teams taking the top spot.

The success of the TWU students underscores the university’s ongoing commitment to contributing valuable research and innovative solutions in support of NASA’s space exploration objectives.

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