Material provided by NASA

Calling all students! NASA needs your help to design containers that could be used in space. The 3-D Space Container Challenge is the second in series of Future Engineers Challenges where students in grades K-12 will create and submit a digital 3-D model of a container that they think astronauts could use in space.

On the International Space Station everything needs to be neatly stored or tied down, otherwise it will float away. That’s why astronauts have containers for everything – spare parts, trash, food – containers for all!  But that’s just the start. Astronauts will need to collect all sorts of stuff on missions to an asteroid, Mars or other deep space destinations.

Containers are vital to plant growth in space. Plant containers have to help roots get water and leaves get CO2 – even in zero gravity. Astronauts use containers to study fruit flies too. The disease genes in those little buggers closely match humans. And since they only live about 50 days, we can study them to predict the effects of spaceflight on us over a lifespan or even over multiple generations!

NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore holds a container, the first object with two parts, a lid and container, printed in space. Credit: NASA
NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore holds a container, the first object with two parts, a lid and container, printed in space. Credit: NASA

As you can see astronauts in space needs loads…and loads, of containers. For everything!

NASA’s 3-D Printing in Zero-G ISS Technology Demonstration demonstrates the capability of utilizing a Made In Space 3-D printer for in-space additive manufacturing technology aboard the space station. This is the first step toward realizing an additive manufacturing, print-on-demand “machine shop” for long-duration missions and sustaining human exploration of other planets. As humans venture farther from Earth containers won’t be readily available and will be expensive to ship to astronauts, so we are looking at designs that can be printed off-planet using a 3-D printer.

Students ages 5-19 years old are invited to become the creators and innovators of tomorrow by using 3-D modeling software to submit their designs for containers that could be used by astronauts on future space missions. Students have the opportunity to win prizes ranging from 3-D printing gift cards, a 3-D printer for their school, a one-week scholarship to Space Camp or a tour of the space shuttle endeavor with an astronaut in Los Angeles. The challenge closes on August 2, 2015 with winners announced on October 7, 2015.

NASA in conjunction with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation is issuing a series of “Future Engineers” 3-D Space Challenges for students focused on solving real-world space exploration problems. Future Engineers is a multi-year education initiative that consists of 3-D Space Challenges and curriculum videos on the site that parents and educators can use to get kids designing today.

To sign up for more information on the challenge, visit: http://www.futureengineers.org

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