NASA awards grants to 2 UNL faculty

NASA awards grants to 2 UNL faculty

Calendar Icon Aug 05, 2009      Person Bust Icon By Carole Wilbeck | Engineering     RSS Feed RSS

The NASA Nebraska Space Grant and EPSCoR office at the University of Nebraska at Omaha has announced that two University of Nebraska-Lincoln professors have been awarded NASA EPSCoR grants of $750,000 each. NASA EPSCoR received 50 proposals from across the country and awarded 27 grants.

The three-year grants are part of NASA's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), designed to further research at colleges and universities nationwide in the areas of aeronautics, exploration systems, science and space operations.

Erick C. Jones, an assistant professor in the Industrial and Management Systems Engineering Department, investigates Radio Frequency Identification, also known as RFID. Jones' research project is designed to minimize time spent by astronauts finding important inventory (such as food) and managing stowage logistics (such as the tracking of experiments) onboard the International Space Station and future NASA space operations.

The Real-Time Location System Jones and his students will develop enables astronauts to easily search for and locate missing items through localization - rather than manually searching the entire vehicle with a handheld scanner and barcode system.

"We are truly honored to introduce our cutting edge research into the NASA space community," Jones said. "We hope our research contributes to increased efficiencies for astronauts and NASA, and on-ground operations through automated asset tracking. This grant allows the innovation and development of these emerging technologies to contribute to NASA's success and provide a foundation for use in other U.S. operations."

Shane M. Farritor, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, is working with Dr. Dmitry Oleynikov, associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, to design, simulate and test miniature robots to support surgery during long-duration space missions. Farritor's research explores the use of a new technique called Natural Orifice Transluminal Endoscopic Surgery. Small robots using the NOTES method could be an important component of a medical system used in future planetary missions. UNL undergraduate and graduate students will work closely with Farritor in designing the robots.

"We are extremely excited about this grant and this work," Farritor said. "We want to make an important contribution to both terrestrial health care as well as future exploration missions. This grant will allow us to build important prototypes to demonstrate our concept."

Nebraska was one of six states to receive two awards in the most recent national competition. Both Jones and Farritor had previously received financial support from the NASA Nebraska Space Grant, which seeks to help Nebraska researchers and students develop meaningful connections with NASA centers and researchers through a variety of grants and fellowship opportunities.

"Nebraska has been incredibly successful in the national NASA EPSCoR competition in recent years," said Scott E. Tarry, director of the NASA Nebraska Space Grant and EPSCoR. "We currently have four NASA EPSCoR-funded projects in the state and all four NU campuses are involved. These projects are critical to the development of the state's research capacity and our ability to retain the best and brightest scholars and students in science and technology fields."