Students Can Now Design Space Tools to be 3D Printed And Used in Outer Space

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fe1With the launch of Space X, a 3D printer has been sent to the International Space Station for the fabrication of various objects in outer space. When the 3D printer, which was created by Made In Space prints its first object, we will see history in the making. Never before has a 3D printer printed anything outside of Earth’s atmosphere. These are historic times for 3D printing as well as space exploration. Like we reported a few days ago, this is merely a testing phase for NASA and Made In Space, who both hope to develop this technology much further, to a point where it allows us to fabricate, not only plastic tools like those created on at-home 3D printers, but much more sophisticated objects and structures as well.

If all goes as planned, NASA’s Niki Werkheiser believes we will be 3D printing buildings, radiation shields, and engines on Mars within 10 years.

Now, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has launched, with the help of many sponsors, and in partnership with NASA, the Future Engineers educational platform. Their goal? To “develop and design challenges for young innovators”. In celebration of the historical Zero-G 3D Printer that has been sent to the ISS, ASME, NASA and Made In Space have teamed up to create a series of 3D Printing Space Challenges, which allow children and teenagers to help solve some real-world space exploration issues.

The first challenge just started, and will run until December 15. The challenge is put together in a way that allows children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 to create 3D modeled designs for a 3D printable space tool, which will be printed in a microgravity environment on the International Space Station.

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What is so unique about this contest is that most people don’t even realize that designing objects to be 3D printed in space is completely different than designing an object that would be printed under conditions here on Earth. Earth’s gravity means that 3D printed objects MUST be able to support their own weight, whereas objects printed in space, do not need to bear any weight (or very close to none), as there is almost zero gravity on the International Space Station. It should be interesting to see what the young designers, scientists, and architects of the world can come up with.

fe4The grand prize winner (between the ages of 13-19) will receive a ticket for themselves and a parent/guardian to NASA’s Payload Operations in Huntsville, Alabama to see their 3D print made live on the ISS. They will have a complete design session with Made in Space, in order to customize their model specifically for microgravity conditions. On top of this, they will be featured on Shapeways in the Designer Spotlight.

The Junior Grand Prize, for contestants between the ages of 5-12, will receive a 3D printer for his or her school. The Runner-Up prize will be an “Ultimate 3D Trip to Los Angeles”, for a day of Movie VFX Education and Digital Domain, as well as a SpaceX Headquarters VIP Tour. Ten Semifinalists will receive 3D prints of their space tools courtesy of Shapeways, and ten Junior Semifinalists will also receive this same prize. The Semifinalists will be announced on January 16, while the Finalists will be named on January 23, 2015, and the winners on January 30.

fe2Judging criteria will be based on innovation and creativity, quality of the 3D modeled geometry, usefulness of the design in a space environment and the ability to communicate the design through the text description and finalist interview. Complete rules and guidelines can be found here.

Without a doubt this is a great competition, not only to benefit the education of students all over the United States, but even perhaps the astronauts and future astronauts on the ISS. Who knows what innovative designs these students will come up with. Perhaps some space aged tools which we would have never imagined. Only time will tell.

What do you think would be a good design for one of these students to create? Are you participating in this competition? Discuss in the 3D Printed Space Tool forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the promo videos from Future Engineers below:

 

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