Just a few months ago, we told you about the 2016 International Space Station Design Challenge, brought to you by electronics distribution company Mouser Electronics and renowned American engineer Grant Imahara. The contest asked engineers, makers, and college students from around the world to create an innovative 3D printable design idea for an electronic object that can be printed and utilized by NASA astronauts aboard the ISS. It’s the latest from Mouser’s Empowering Innovation Together program, launched along with the opening of their Innovation Lab, a hub for various design and engineering challenges.
The contest was judged by Imahara and former ISS commander Chris Hadfield. Contestants had to include an image of the design, a schematic of the electrical for the design, a Bill of Materials, and PCB fabrication files. Contest participants also had to write a short essay on their design idea, and why it will benefit the astronauts residing aboard the ISS. The judges certainly had their work cut out for them, receiving hundreds of creative and inspiring designs for objects that could be made and utilized in space, including tools, fun games, and even a prosthetic nose that improves the taste of astronaut food!
“Mouser’s dedication to the engineering and maker communities was at the heart of this challenge…The contestants’ imaginations really took flight, and it was no easy task for our judges to choose a winner. We’re ecstatic with the level of innovation the contestants displayed,” said Glenn Smith, President and CEO of Mouser Electronics.
But in the end, there can be only one, or in this case, three. Coming in third place is Thomas Delmas, with his design for a vise that can be used to fix things in space without them floating away due to zero gravity. Alsie Cluff came in second place with her design for space tongs that can both scoop and grab food from a pouch. They each won a Fluke Meter, a device that combines several electronic measurement functions into one unit.
The grand prize winner of the ISS Design Challenge is Andy Filo, who created an innovative device that launches femtosatellites, which are about the size of a postage stamp. A femtosatellite has several features, including a low-power Intel D2000 Quark microcontroller that can analyze sensor data, a magnetometer, a gyroscope, and several sensors. It uses the memory to describe asteroids passing by, coronal events from the sun, and cosmic rays from the stars. Filo’s 3D printed device is essentially a frame for several little gills, or trays, and each one holds a femtosatellite. Once loaded into the frame, the femtosatellites are then flung out, like tiny Frisbees, inside the ISS. This is especially useful for an astronaut who is floating inside the ISS, surrounded by floating equipment, or, as Filo puts it, “I don’t need a table, I don’t need a floor, I don’t need gravity.”
Filo met with Imahara at the NASA Research Center, and they visited with revolutionary company Made In Space, virtual pioneers in additive manufacturing technology for use in the space environment. Filo will be working with Made In Space and Mouser Electronics to develop and print his winning design. It will then be beamed directly to the ISS, where it will be printed and potentially used by an actual astronaut. He will also receive a 3D printer.
The contest was co-sponsored by two of Mouser’s top suppliers, Amphenol and Intel. Mouser also partnered with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Made In Space, Hackster, and MacroFab. You can learn more about the contest and winners below:
Discuss in the ISS Design Challenge forum at 3DPB.com.