This story originally ran in June 2012.
Most laboratories have an emergency eyewash station to help save lab workers’ eyes in the event of a mishap. But what about the International Space Station, one of the most visible laboratories in — or out of — the world, where water doesn’t flow as conveniently as it does on Earth?
The challenge of developing a viable zero-gravity eyewash for astronauts was taken on by Rob Bauer ’12, Malcolm Blake ’12, Eric Lee ’12 and Thierry Rignol ’12, all bioengineering majors, and Zachary Foster ’12, a mechanical engineering major.
Calling itself Team Helios, the group had to create a set of goggles that not only would allow spacefarers to wash their eyes in an emergency, but that also would contain and eliminate the rinse water.
The team’s solution was a set of eyewash goggles that borrowed suction from a space toilet to help contain the rinse water.
“The device will only work in zero gravity,” said Matthew Wettergreen, a lecturer in bioengineering, who along with Brent Houchens, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, advised the team. “So the exciting opportunity the students had was to solve a problem that won’t even be used in the environmental conditions they inhabit.”
Team Helios pitted their device against the creations of 10 other teams at the annual NASA-sponsored Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) Design Challenge, where it took home the Top Design Team award as well as a slew of other awards.