Ashley Darling is a 4th-year Industrial Design major studying Space Lace: Active Space Debris Removal Using Netted Lace Techniques with Professor Lisa Marks.

A photo of Ashley

How long have you been an undergraduate researcher at Georgia Tech?

I began my UROP research journey this semester as a recipient of the President’s Undergraduate Research Award. In Spring 2022, I served as an Undergraduate Student Assistant at SimTigrate Design Lab, focusing on researching design recommendations for patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment.

How did you get involved with undergraduate research?

Prior to college, I had very limited knowledge about the expansive opportunities for research in the field of Industrial Design. The turning point occurred when I was introduced to Professor Marks and her innovative project, the Algorithmic Lace Bra, during one of my studio classes. Witnessing the positive impact of her research sparked a deep curiosity within me, and I became eager to explore the possibilities of contributing to such impactful work.

Motivated by the excitement and potential I saw in Professor Marks' research, I took the initiative to approach her about potential opportunities to join her lab. Expressing my interest, she welcomed me into the lab by introducing me to the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).

What are you working on?

Our current work involves creating small scale physical prototypes using materials like cotton string and yarn and experimenting with different techniques to potentially combine with netted lace, employing an iterative design approach to analyze benefits and experiment with different forms and techniques. We are exploring various bundling methods and closure techniques, a drawstring and sinching mechanism that will close the net around the captured debris. We are also researching methods to be used to hold the net while it makes its journey to space so that the net will not become tangled in transport and can easily open as it's deployed.

Ashley working on her Space Lace.

What is your favorite thing about research/researching?

What I find most invigorating about the Space Lace research is the opportunity it provides to merge my passion for handcraft with the pursuit of making a meaningful impact in society. Being an avid enthusiast of crochet and learning new skills in netted lace techniques, I've discovered that my favorite aspect of research is the synergy between traditional handcraft and modern problem-solving.

The act of combining the intricacies of netted lace with the intellectual challenges of research allows me to think creatively in ways I have never experienced before. It's a unique and fulfilling journey where the familiarity of traditional handcraft meets the innovation required in addressing contemporary issues. This synergy not only enriches my research endeavors but also deepens my appreciation for the ways in which age-old crafts can contribute to novel and forward-thinking solutions.

An upclose shot of the Space Lace.

What are your future plans and how has research influenced them?

This research further affirms my desire to attend law school after graduation where I hope to combine my passion of design and law through a career path in Intellectual Property and Design Patent Law. The Space Lace research has been instrumental in emphasizing the crucial role of protecting ideas and creations, especially within the dynamic landscape of technological advances. It has underscored the significance of legal frameworks that support and encourage innovation while ensuring that the rights of those contributing to technological evolution are duly acknowledged and protected