Photo of person engaged in virtual reality

A strategic partnership with NASA put BW business honors students at the forefront of an exciting initiative that melds future Mars exploration with virtual reality.

BW-NASA Explore Mars Virtual Reality

June 27, 2016

Photo of BW students at NASAA unique opportunity with NASA put BW business honors students at the forefront of an initiative aimed at melding future Mars exploration with virtual reality and gaming.

In the spring, nine students, under the leadership of business professor Dr. Susan Kuznik, worked with BW alumna Laurie Stauber '78, senior program specialist at NASA Glenn Research Center, on a real-world project.

“One of the goals of the regional economic development initiative is to engage universities in the Midwest by providing relevant student capstone projects," said Stauber. "In working with several schools, I found that meaningful senior engineering (and other) topics based on real-world problems are in demand as a requirement for graduation."

Photo of person engaged in virtual realityVirtual Exploration of Mars

NASA’s challenge to the BW students was to develop scenarios that would deeply engage virtual-world enthusiasts with specific applications associated with a future Mars exploration mission. As one example, virtual reality enthusiasts could connect with the use of robotic exploration vehicles (rovers) that would enable them to experience being on Mars. 

Students also suggested a number of gaming recommendations NASA could use to engage global citizens in the dynamic, popular and ever-growing activity of gaming.

"This project blended space exploration and virtual reality, an intriguing combination with a lot of potential," explained Kuznik.

"For BW students enrolled in the business honors program, it offered a real-world, multi-faceted learning experience," she continued.

Capstone Impact

"Students did in-depth research and brainstormed in preparation for creating a recommendation they would later present to NASA scientists, engineers, IT staff and other vested individuals," noted Kuznik.

The presentation, held at NASA, was an impactful learning opportunity for several students. Among them Nathan Healey '16, an accounting and finance major from Parma.

"The world of consulting–from dealing with a client, to collaborating with a team, to performing high-level research and analysis–was made clearer to us," he said.

Jenna Andreas '16 concurred. The accounting and finance major from Pinkerton, Ohio, noted, "The class gave me a real-life look into a consulting project. It was an awesome opportunity to get a different view of how learning can take place in the classroom with actual application."

Stauber sees a bright future for such collaborative problem-solving through university capstone projects. "The obvious benefits to the agency are low cost, relatively quick results in the form of a final report, and a fresh perspective on a serious technical challenge."