- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - When Karen Fiegen set out on a design career, she envisioned “pretty dresses, runway, red carpet, all that fun stuff.”

These days Fiegen and other apparel students in the University of Minnesota's College of Design are working on something far more serious: figuring out better gloves for America’s astronauts.

KSTP-TV reports (http://bit.ly/1tPc597) they headed to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston this week to test a range of new textiles in a reduced-gravity environment. The current glove design can leave astronauts’ hands sweaty and prone to rashes and chafing.

“We focus so much on the body and the user’s experience with what they’re wearing,” Fiegen, the project leader, said. “And so I have a much keener understanding of fit and what a user would want to be feeling against their skin.”

They’ll test materials including a superabsorbent sodium polyacrylate cloth, a microfluidic film, and even a special pump created for the experiment.

“We had to put together a lot of paperwork that involved things like structural loading, calculations and this is stuff that apparel students don’t have in their foundation coursework, but engineering students do,” said Lucy Dunne, an associate professor in the College of Design.

Fiegen said the team hopes to show other young women that a career in technology is within reach. They’ll show the results of their experiments to middle-school girls at the university’s science, technology and math summer camp.

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Information from: KSTP-TV, http://www.kstp.com