HOUSTON – 03 Jan 11
USRP Intern Creates New I-Pad App for NASA's Habitation Demonstration Unit
By: Heather L. Ogletree
Since the launch of the iPad on April 3, 2010, over 300,000 applications have been released. From gaming to lifestyles to educational material, if you can dream it, you will most likely find an app for it. Even NASA has joined the iPad craze with free apps like NASA Today and Image of the Day where people can check out NASACast and This Week @NASA (TW@N). Devices like the iPad, which feature touchscreen meets WiFi technology in a compact easy-to-use format, seem to be the wave of the future. So when Jonathan Alexis, a senior at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York, joined the Undergraduate Student Research Project (USRP) team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, it was the perfect time to unveil a new project where he could develop his own NASA iPad app.
This fall, Alexis joined USRP Mentor Lui Wang to complete a 15 week project entitled “Mobile Computing Software Technology Development,” which partnered with a larger project concerning the construction of NASA’s Habitat Demonstration Unit (HDU).
According to The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, “The purpose of this HDU is to develop a fully autonomous habitation system that enables human exploration of space.”
For Alexis, this meant creating an iPad app that could contribute to the autonomy of the remote habitation system. He said, “The application was intended to display and control different systems of a space habitat. Some control we managed to model was that of power, lighting and thermal system.”
When choosing a format for his application, the iPad seemed to fall in line with project demands. “The iPad has potential to give programs a modern and elegant appearance.... The availability of touch inputs will allow for natural interactions,” noted Alexis. “Together these traits can make accomplishing tasks a quick and fun process.”
Alexis, himself, is no stranger to touchscreen technology; he gained experience working with touchscreen monitors doing troubleshooting and repair during a coop experience.
At RIT, Alexis is the president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and is a member of the Society of Black Engineers. Upon graduation, he hopes to attend graduate school to pursue a graduate degree in electrical engineering and robotics and to one day work in the robotics industry.
While at JSC, Alexis not only developed an application, he also developed a network. Alexis stated, “Through my NASA USRP internship, I have been able to expand my personal and professional network in ways that will help me create the future I desire.”
Alexis encourages future interns to “use your time here to connect with as many people as possible and to absorb as much of the NASA culture as you can. You never know what small things will play large roles in helping you along your way.”
For more information about the NASA HDU project click here.