NASA & Future Engineers Launch the 3D Printed Space Container Challenge

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Butch Wilmore on the International Space Station

Storage is at a premium on a space station, and ideally, there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place.

Now NASA and Future Engineers say they need the help of students to design objects capable of meeting the requirements of the 3D Space Container Challenge, the second in a series of Future Engineers Challenges which ask students in grades K-12 to create and submit their digital 3D models of containers for astronauts to use in their travels through space.

The International Space Station is designed to provide areas to neatly store and tie down such items as spare parts, food, tools and even trash. They also require containers to allow them to collect anything they might wish to bring back from their destinations.

Containers are also key to keeping plants healthy in space and keeping them safe in the zero gravity environment. They’re essential to making certain fruit flies can be contained while they’re being studied, and those studies help predict the effects of spaceflight on human beings, so the work is critical.

The content is an outgrowth of NASA’s 3D Printing in Zero-G ISS Technology Demonstration which uses the Made In Space 3D printer to additively manufacture tools and test parts on the space station. NASA says it’s the first step in realizing what they call a “print-on-demand machine shop” to be used in long-duration missions.

For this challenge, students from ages 5-19 are being asked to use their 3D modeling skills and software to submit designs for containers, and each student has the opportunity to win prizes which range from 3D printing gift cards to a 3D printer for their school, a week-long scholarship to Space Camp or even a tour of the space shuttle Endeavor – led by an astronaut no less – in Los Angeles.

The challenge closes to entries on August 2, 2015, and the winners will be announced on October 7, 2015. NASA has worked with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation to create these challenges for “Future Engineers,” and the 3D Space Challenges are focused on helping students solve real-world space exploration problems.

The Future Engineers program is a multi-year education initiative which includes the 3D Space Challenges and a set of curriculum videos on the site for parents and educators to introduce their kids to the world of engineering and design.

If you want to sign yourself or your young engineer up for the program and the challenges, or simply find more information, you can do that here at Futureengineers.org.

Students Sydney Vernon with her 3D printed challenge entry. Photo by Adrienne Gifford.

Students Sydney Vernon with her 3D printed challenge entry. Photo by Adrienne Gifford.

Do you know a student who has the skills to win any of the 3D Space Challenges? Let us know and show us their work in the 3D Space Container Challenge forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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