asme_logoIt seems like there is no shortage of 3D design challenges and competitions these days. For a new technology that is growing in popularity, challenges seem like an excellent way for a company or organization to advertise and educate about its services. Meanwhile, people can display 3D design skills focused on a specific theme. And yes, there are great prizes, which can include printing vouchers, software packages, accessories, and the much desired 3D printer itself. But we don’t hear about reward trips to Vegas as much, do we? NASA and the American Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASME) have teamed up for a ‘Think Outside the Box’ Challenge focused on student designers. The challenge offers a Grand Prize of a trip to Las Vegas to see Bigelow Aerospace — the people responsible for technology that has already been placed on the International Space Station (ISS) — and visit NASA’s Additive Manufacturing Facility. How’s that for a unique opportunity?

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Given that there’s a Vegas trip on the line here, it’s important to know about the ground rules of the challenge. The Future Engineers website, where you can sign up for the Challenge, explains that this Challenge celebrates the launching of both the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) and the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF). BEAM is an expandable habitat technology that is initially more compact as it is transported to space. The AMF, designed by Made in Space as a permanent 3D printing facility on the ISS, is a project we’ve been following closely since the early stages.

bigelowaerospace-logo-nav4-24bitSo, now that you know what is so special about Las Vegas when it comes to 3D printing in space, who and what does NASA (and the ASME) want for the design Challenge?

“If you are a K-12 student in the United States, your challenge is to design an object that assembles, telescopes, hinges, accordions, grows, or expands to become larger than the printing bounds of the AMF 3D printer (14cm long x 10cm wide x 10cm tall). The assembled or expanded item should be useful for an astronaut living in microgravity on the International Space Station.”

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The idea here is to make sure that you design with space in mind. The really good news is that the Challenge ends on August 1, 2016. That’s right. School is still in session for another month, and if you are a student, you may be busy with finals or the other exciting activities that accompany the end of the school year. But then there’s summertime. If you were wondering how to spend your time during the slower summer months of June or July, now you can get busy designing an awesome entry for the ‘Think Outside the Box’ Challenge.

In addition to the Grand Prize Vegas trip for top winners in the Junior and Teen categories, four finalists will win a Heimplanet Inflatable Tent, and ten semi-finalists will receive $50 Shapeways certificates.

So students, there’s no excuse to sit around and wonder how you’ll spend some portion of your summer break. Enter NASA and the ASME’s ‘Think Outside the Box’ Challenge and be the next young designer to contribute a little slice of 3D printing to the exciting outer limits of space travel and habitation. Do you have a great idea for this contest? Let’s discuss in the 3D Printing NASA & ASME Challenge forum over at 3DPB.com.

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