The love of the science fiction genre can be lifelong, with many fans beginning their avowed obsessions as early as preschool and elementary school. This obsession is not only harmless, it can prove to be quite educational, as young people begin learning about science and technology with the imagination reinforced by a love of all things science fiction. Yes, we are talking about the Star Wars and Star Trek series that never seem to go out of style. To reinforce that science fiction’s appeal extends to a place as timeless as outer space itself, the American Society for Mechanical Engineering Foundation (ASME) has teamed up with NASA and Star Trek to sponsor a fun and thematic 3D design challenge aimed at US students grades K-12.
One of the aspects of outer space I have always found so fascinating is how astronauts eat. Due to zero gravity conditions, liquid does not pour, nor does cereal simply sit in a bowl of milk ready to be devoured. All kinds of devices have been designed to accommodate the necessary requirements to stay satiated in outer space; there’s even a special 3D printed glass that allows an astronaut to have a proper drink of whiskey! But given that rules do not permit astronauts to drink alcohol in outer space, the usual focus of 3D designed food-related items in space is on utensils, and food growing and delivery mechanisms. And guess what? This is also the theme of this Star Trek Replicator Challenge:
“If you are a K-12 student in the United States, your challenge is to create a digital 3D model of a non-edible, food-related item for astronauts to 3D print in the year 2050. We want students to ‘boldy go where no one has gone before’ with 3D printing, by making designs that help astronauts eat nutritious meals so they can ‘live long and prosper’ in locations beyond the International Space Station. Eating a meal in space involves more than the actual food itself – from growing plants to preparing and eating meals.”
There really is no end to the kinds of devices and machines that can help astronauts eat nutritious meals, which is why this is an excellent educational theme for this 3D design Challenge. After all, the good folks on Star Trek have been making things in outer space for quite some time with the trusty Replicator: what better inspiration for your own 3D designs?
Regarding rules, here are some key things to keep in mind. Each person can only make one submission and no teams are allowed. Your submitted file must be in STL format with a maximum size of 20MB. Images of your object must be submitted in JPG or JPEG format, with a maximum size format of 500KB. Your food object must have a title (maximum of 20 characters), and a description of the object’s utility (maximum of 1000 characters.) Finally, submissions must be original, G-rated with no corporate logos, and you should also keep it identity free. This means that your name, or someone else’s, should not appear in text, title, 3D model, or image.
Got it? If you think you can follow those guidelines, then you are already well on your way to developing your own 3D model of a 3D printable, non-edible, and food related object for outer space circa 2050. Be sure to also check out this 5-page PDF explaining Design Guidelines to make sure that your submission will be accepted. The closing date is May 1, 2016 — giving you over two months to complete and submit your design. (Winners will be announced July 5, 2016.)
Watch the below video to find out more about the Challenge and prizes you can win. And may the Force (or Fork?) be with you as you print long and prosper! Doesn’t this sound like fun? Discuss in the Star Trek 3D Printing Challenge forum over at 3DPB.com.