About Higher Education Program


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2006 HEP Award Recipient

Introduction to Intelligent Structural Systems with Space Applications
Gangbing Song (University of Houston)

This proposal addresses TSGC goals No. 4, 1, and 2 in the Higher Education Program as explained below:

  1. This project intends to develop an interdisciplinary and space related course entitled, "Introduction to Smart Space Structures (ISSS)." This course is interdisciplinary since it covers knowledge from multi-disciplines such as materials science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and astronautics. Clearly, this course is also space related since it includes the space applications of smart materials and structures. Therefore, this project explicitly addresses TSGC goal No. 4 in Higher Education Program "Development of interdisciplinary space related courses and curriculum."
  2. The course to be developed through this project, "Introduction to Smart Space Structures (ISSS)," is a dual-level course and will be open to both undergraduates and first-year graduates. It is expected that 60% of the students will be undergraduates. The course will provide students with research oriented homework and projects. Also the results from the PI's space related research will be introduced to the students. Therefore, this project clearly addresses the TSGC goal No. 1 in Higher Education Program "Provide opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in space based research and exploration."
  3. To enhance student's learning experience within a limited budget, two remote interactive experimental setups, which can offer a variety of experiments, will be developed with the matching funding of $15,000 from the Office of Educational Technology/University Outreach (ETUO) at University of Houston. Using the remote interactive experimentation technology via internet, only one of each setup will be fabricated, and this will enable savings by avoiding fabricating multiple setups in the case of conventional in-lab experiments. The PI has successfully developed remote experiments with a previous funding from ETUO at UH. The proposed course will be accompanied by remote interactive experimental setups:
    1. A flexible satellite solar array simulator. Satellite solar arrays are often large, flexible, and prone to vibrations. The vibration control of flexible space structures is a challenge for spacecraft designers. This simulator involves a flexible beam with surface-bonded piezoceramic (a type of smart material) sensors and actuators. The piezoceramic sensors can sense the vibration of the beam, and the piezoceramic actuators can induce and control vibrations of the beam. This setup can perform multiple remote experiments such as modeling of a flexible structure, modal analysis, and active vibration control of flexible structures.
    2. A frame structure with smart dampers for vibration control. This remote experiment will involve a flexible frame structure and a smart damper based on the Magneto-Rheological (MR) fluids technology. The smart damper's damping property can be actively adjusted and enables adaptive passive vibration control, which combines the advantages of both active and passive vibration controls. This setup can perform multiple remote experiments such as modeling of a smart damper, modeling of a frame structure, and adaptive passive controls of flexible structures.

Though the experiments will be offered to students remotely via the internet, the quality of the experimentation will not suffer. All the experiments will be equipped with two cameras and an internet-enabled real-time control system, and this ensures the delivery of life video and real2 time experimental data. More importantly, students can download their own control algorithms and also alter system parameters online. With the life video and real-time data, the experience of this "remote interactive lab" is indeed comparable to those of in-lab experiments at a much lower cost.

Through remote hands-on projects, students will have in-depth understanding of smart materials and structures and how these smart structures can be used for space applications. Also, students are exposed to issues and challenges in space exploration through these space related project. More importantly, students will gain interests in space related researches and will possibly choose a career in space exploration. Therefore, this project clearly addresses the TSGC goal No. 2 in Higher Education Program "Support NASA related research activities through student projects."