f4Probably two of the areas which excite me the most about where 3D printing will take us all, has to do with space travel and education. The ability to print items on the fly, as needed in space, without having to launch heavy payloads, should reveal itself as being incredibly valuable to future manned missions to foreign soils such as the Moon or Mars. At the same time, 3D printing is slowly transforming the way children, teens and adults are learning, as it provides an invaluable tool for creation.

Here at 3DPrint.com, we’ve been following an incredible design contest since late September which combines both subject matters into one. The Future Engineers 3D Printing in Space Challenge has finally concluded, and winners have been announced. The challenge, which was a White House Maker Education Initiative and a STEAM Education Program, was brought to us all thanks to the Founding Sponsor ASME Foundation, Elite Sponsor, SpaceX, and with support from both NASA and Made in Space.

Multi-Purpose Precision Maintenance Tool - Teen Group Winner

Multi-Purpose Precision Maintenance Tool – Teen Group Winner

The idea behind the challenge, for students between the ages of 5 and 19, was to design a tool which could be 3D printed in Space on Made in Space’s Zero G 3D Printer, and then used to make life in space easier for astronauts. As we’ve detailed in the past, there were dozens of incredible designs submitted for entry into two different groups; the Junior Group (ages 5-12) and the Teen Group (ages 13-19). In our opinion, each and every design was a winner, as they acted as tremendous learning tools for the participants, but in the end only two winners could be chosen.

In the Teen Group, Robert Hillan from Enterprise, Alabama won with his design for a multipurpose precision maintenance tool. This tiny contraption features many tools in one. There are drivers of varying sizes at the top, allowing for the attachment of sockets, while throughout the middle of the tool there are different wrench sizes. On the left side of the tool there is a ruler, wire gauges, and a wire stripper. It can be gripped easily thanks to the designed ridges along the edge.

Space Planter

Space Planter – Junior Group Winner

In the Junior Group, Sydney Vernon from Bellevue, Washington won with an incredible design for a space planter. This tool, which resembled a creature of sorts (perhaps an alien which has made its way onto the International Space Station), allows astronauts to grow plants using limited resources. The planter is broken up into two sections, a top and a bottom, via a disk insert. The top half is filled with dirt and a seed is then place inside. The bottom half is filled with water. Strings running from the top half, through the soil and into the water in the bottom half, allow the plant to suck this water up only as it’s needed.

Like we’ve mentioned before, there were a number of incredible designs submitted, all which could potentially be 3D printed and used within Space. Below you will find the finalists and semifinalists of each group, along with a link to their respective designs:

Teen Group (Ages 13-19)

Junior Group (Ages 5-12)

“The level of engagement during this challenge was amazing to observe.  I facilitated 70 future engineers in Coppell, Texas Kinder-5th grade.  After they watched the launch video they were ready to build what they knew about the challenge and what they needed to know. That became the living document that guided them to research and make decisions. Creating a 3-D tool was new to them. I have heard from other educators around the district, they are applying what they learned to other projects and using them in ways I would have never predicted. This was a real world challenge that allowed them to apply their creative skills in determining an innovative tool that would make life on the ISS easier or more fun.” said Jodi Schleter, Content Integration Coach, Coppell Independent School District.

Which design was your favorite? Let’s hear your thoughts in the 3D Printing in Space Challenge forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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