Senior Sam Imamov was so excited when he was told by his academic advisor that he could add music technology as a minor to his academic portfolio. Peter Means for Virginia Tech.

Sam Imamov, a senior majoring in computer science and a minoring in music technology, served as team lead for the Hokienauts, also known as the space turkeys of Virginia Tech,  who for the second year were finalists in the 2020 NASA (Spacesuit User Interface Technologies for Students) SUITS  Challenge

This year, Virginia Tech was one of 21 universities across the nation participating in the challenge. Designed to help astronauts in performing spacewalks tasks, the Hokienauts’ design includes space suit information displays within an augmented reality environment. Another element is a user interface, utilizing the Microsoft HoloLens, which enables astronauts to finish a task more efficiently by providing a set of instructions via the display environment.

The task requires dexterity, physical activity, and navigation between various points within the test environment. And in particular for the Artemis mission, it is essential that crewmembers on spacewalks are equipped with the appropriate human-autonomy enabling technologies necessary for the elevated demands of lunar surface exploration and extreme terrestrial access.

“This is a pretty unique opportunity,” said Imamov. “And we had one of the most diverse teams last year, with representation from computer science, computer engineering, graphic design, and 3-D modelers.” Stacked against other universities such as Harvard and Texas A&M, Imamov said the team’s diversity of skillsets made them a distinctive contender.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the team was not able to travel to Johnson Space Center and participate in the on-site test week originally scheduled for late April. 

“There are opportunities for everyone as the door has been opened to NASA,” said Imamov. As a transfer student and a native of Russia, he encourages students that are seeking their place at Virginia Tech to reach out and tap into resources. “Do not be afraid to ask for advice from professors and teaching assistants.”

He found this advice to be especially true when he was starting his classes and getting to know his professors, including Wallace Lages, assistant professor in the creative technologies program, who found out about the challenge and began recruiting students and faculty to join the team. Lages said the project caught his interest because it involved NASA and could use students with an array of skill sets. 

After graduation, Imamov plans to take his collective experiences at Virginia Tech to work at Microsoft as a software engineer.