University of Maine Researchers Work with NASA on HIAD

hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator HIADA group of researchers at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine are working with NASA on inflatable technology that might one day be used to land humans on Mars.

The Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) consists of a series of large inflatable rings called tori that are similar to inner tubes. They are arranged in decreasing diameter and are connected with fabric in a cone shape.

As a spaceship passed through a planet’s atmosphere, it could deploy the HIAD to slow it down and keep it from crashing into the surface. It would also shield the vehicle from the heat of reentry. A system of parachutes or boosters would help the spacecraft set down safely.

The HIAD was designed largely by engineers at NASA, but the space agency looked to researchers at the University of Maine for their help and expertise. They had experience working with inflatable fabric structures, including the Bridge-in-a-Backpack.

The university is currently in the third year of a four-year, $750,000 grant from NASA. The university pledged another $250,000. The team is studying a variety of inflatable braided fabrics and using a machine that NASA provided to test how much stress they can withstand. NASA issued the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research grant through the Maine Space Grant Consortium.

NASA also awarded University of Maine civil engineering doctoral student Andrew Young a 2015 NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship. The fellowship will provide up to $148,000 in funding over two years. Fellowships were awarded to about 50 students across the United States to study technologies related to space travel.

NASA asked Young to find methods to predict how HIADs of different sizes, orientations, and materials would perform and respond to stress. NASA needs models because testing a HIAD on a full-scale basis would be cost-prohibitive.

The researchers at the university hope the project will lead to future collaborations with NASA and increase NASA’s interest in the university’s institutions and companies.

Live Comfy Jacket Inflates So Travelers Can Rest

Live Comfy inflatable jacketLive Comfy has created a smart jacket with an inflatable hood that provides the wearer with a comfortable pillow to take a nap while traveling.

The jacket has an air system and smart pump that inflates ergonomic air chambers located in the jacket’s hood. A smart phone app controls the pump and enables the wearer to adjust the pressure. The hood can also be inflated manually.

The Live Comfy jacket has other features for travelers. The pump can also function as a portable battery pack that can charge any device that plugs into a USB port. It has an audio jack to listen to music from a phone without the need for wires.

Live Comfy recently launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign. The company’s goal is to raise $30,000.

Live Comfy is currently applying and paying for registrations that are necessary to market the inflatable jacket. They are applying to have the product licensed by Bluetooth. The company also needs to be sure that the jacket complies with all regulations set by the Transportation Security Administration.

Live Comfy hopes to begin to ship jackets in the 2015-2016 winter season. Their intention is to ship them by the end of the year, but they realize that goal is optimistic. Manufacturers they are working with will be filling other orders during the busy holiday season. Depending on the size of the order Live Comfy places, the manufacturers may or may not make the company a top priority. They did not want to promise that orders would be ready by the holidays and be unable to deliver, so they set their goal as sometime during the winter of 2015-2016.

Sticky Monsters’ Sports Meet Features Inflatable Runway

Sticky Monster Lab inflatable runwayThe 7th Annual National Fitness Day on August 8, 2015 was marked by setting up a 140-meter-long inflatable runway in the center of Chengdu, a city in southwestern China. The pop-up runway will remain and will be open to the public until September 6.

The event is known as the Sticky Monsters’ Sports Meet. It is a collaboration between Chengdu International Finance Square, Sticky Monster Lab of South Korea, and AllRightsReserved, which serves as the curator. The inflatable runway is the highlight of the event, which also includes the Sticky Monster Wave Pool, the Vertical Marathon, and the “Happy Burst of Energy” Athletic Party.

Monsters from Sticky Monster Lab are located at various points along the track. The runway also includes obstacles, such as slides and climbing walls, where people can test their strength and skills to cross the finish line. Anyone who completes the runway challenge will receive a limited edition IFS X Sticky Monster Lab Sports Bracelet.

The Sticky Monsters initially appear to be cute monsters, but when spectators look closer, they can see that the monsters are all imperfect in some way. Kibon, for example, has no hands. They are meant to show that everyone is imperfect in some way but that we can all overcome obstacles. The theme of the event is “Challenge Yourself and Overcome the Obstacles.”

Several prominent Chinese athletes attended the Sticky Monsters’ Sports Meet. Residents of Chengdu were also celebrating Beijing’s successful bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

The event is also intended to draw attention to the “Warm Current” Public Welfare Project. Chengdu IFS will donate the sports equipment used in the event to underprivileged children who live in mountainous areas in China.

Inflatable Art Teaches about the Environment

Evelyn Roth Inflatable AnimalsArtist Evelyn Roth creates handmade inflatable works that educate people around the world about environmental issues. She has been making Festival Arts inflatable “Nylon Zoo” animals from her kitchen table at her home in Australia for the past 25 years.

Many of the inflatable animals are 15 meters high. They are made by hand from nylon in an array of stunning colors. Each one takes about 70 hours to make. An inflatable sculpture can fit in a backpack and be inflated easily.

The material captures and blends light to produce an effect similar to stained-glass windows in a church to create an engaging atmosphere for people to listen and learn. The animals provide a mobile schoolroom that can seat up to 50 people. A storyteller educates visitors about the environment and social responsibility.

The inflatable animals have been put on display in countries around the world to educate members of the public about environmental issues, endangered species, public health, and ecology. Roth made giant salmon that are currently on display in Brazil and Alaska, a platypus for Germany, a beaver for Canada, and dragons for Singapore and Hong Kong. She has also made a swamp monster, rooster, giant squid, and tiger. Roth has displayed her inflatable creations at the annual WOMADelaide for the past 20 years.

Roth was commissioned recently to create an inflatable southern right whale and two monk seals in Hawaii. The species are endangered. The monk seal colony on the island of Kauai is the last one in the world. She believes it is important for people to understand the importance of the colony, the threats it faces, and what people can do to help.

Nylon Zoo installations have been displayed at festivals and fairs in Australia. They have also been used to educate people in indigenous communities in the remote Outback. Roth created an inflatable ear to teach people in remote Aboriginal communities about deafness. People were able to walk through it to learn how the ear works and how to protect their hearing. A public health nurse explained things, answered questions, and gave advice.

Why Are Giant Rubber Ducks Controversial?

Rubber Duck controversy“Rubber Duck,” a giant inflatable sculpture by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, has delighted residents and visitors in cities around the world. Despite its universal appeal, the inflatable duck is controversial.

“Rubber Duck” was first showcased in Saint-Nazaire, France in 2007. Other rubber ducks were put on display in Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Canada, and other countries in subsequent years. People came by the thousands to see them and take pictures.

Rubber ducks have been around since the end of the late 19th century. Shortly after rubber was introduced to the market, several people decided independently to fashion it into ducks. A variety of toys and hunting decoys were invented, but none had much commercial success. In 1949, Peter Ganine secured a patent for a rubber duck that squeaked, floated, stayed upright, and smiled. Millions were sold.

Ganine’s yellow rubber ducks became synonymous with childhood because they were associated with bathtubs. Primary colors, smiling faces, and baby animals induce feelings of happiness in people’s brains. They also became popular for the squeaky sounds they produced. The rubber ducks do not have any real political or cultural associations, but are rather a blank slate. People can add whatever meaning they want by decorating them or using them to symbolize other things.

Hofman relies on the size of his sculptures to make a statement. By making them so large, he makes humans seem smaller, which he hopes takes away people’s egos and helps them communicate better.

Some people dislike the ducks precisely because of their ubiquity and broad-based appeal. Critics say the ducks have nothing to do with the unique history or character of the many cities where they are displayed and that they are generic and feel like advertising.

Hofman’s rubber ducks are also controversial because he enforces copyright over all rubber ducks when his inflatables are on display and has been known to sue people for infringement and to take his ducks away. Critics say this deprives local businesspeople of revenue.