K-12 Enterprising Inventors Live Long and Prosper With NASA

K-12 Enterprising Inventors Live Long and Prosper With NASA


NASA and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Foundation are seeking enterprising inventors in the United States for the Star Trek Replicator Challenge. The message being used to recruit young people says, “Calling all Starfleet cadets! Star Trek and NASA want you to engineer the future of food in space.”

The challenge was announced Feb. 16, 2016, at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum in New York. The NASA/ASME contest is for inventors in grades K-12 who are enterprising and interested in prospering and living long.

The Challenge From NASA/ASME

Students are asked to create a 3D model of non-edible, food-related items. These items could be futuristic flatware, plates, reusable containers, etc. These models will be printed in 3D by astronauts in the year 2050. NASA encourages youth stating the possibilities are limited only by their imagination. Even the material can be futuristic.

Prizes Presented by NASA

  • K-12 winners in the Junior and Teen categories will be perceived by NASA as enterprising inventors who want to prosper and live long. In addition, they will be able to take a trip to New York to experience the “Starfleet Academy” at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum. Moreover, the winners will tour the retired Space Shuttle Enterprise with an astronaut from NASA. There will also be “mystery Star Trek prize packs.”
  • Each age group will have four finalists chosen among the entrants. The finalists will have a 3D printer donated to their school.
  • There will be 10 semifinalists who will each receive prize packs from Made in Space and NASA.

Submission Guidelines

Students will be able to submit their 3-dimensional models from now until May 1. Winners, however, will not be announced until July 5.

The Future Engineers competition, sponsored by NASA/ASME, has a website with the guidelines, rules, and ideas for students and teachers. The contest is explained further on their website. There are videos for the kids to watch as well as broad ideas to get them thinking. The future of America will be creating for the future of space. The website also reminds parents and students alike, that eating a meal in space goes far beyond this seemingly simple act.

The non-edible, food related object, for future NASA astronauts, has to be created for the Moon, another planet, a moon for another planet, or a spacecraft designed for long duration, but not the International Space Station (ISS). The object designed must be able to be printed with one type of material, but is does not have to already exist. The material for the object can be as futuristic as the design. Materials found on other planets, such as dirt, are called martian/lunar regolith by NASA.

NASA/ASME Collaborations

The Future Engineers contest is the third challenge from the collaborative effort between ASME and NASA. “Space Tool Challenge” was the first, in the Spring of 2014. Students designed tools to be printed by astronauts in 3D. The second competition was the “Space Container Challenge.” This occurred in the Fall of 2015. Competitors designed containers to be printed in, there is a theme here, 3D by astronauts.

Judging Is Based on Four Aspects

  • Creativity and innovation of the space object. 30 pts.
  • The ability of the design to be a part of the advancement of exploring space as a 3D print. 30 pts.
  • The quality and compliance of the 3D model with the design guidelines. 20 pts.
  • Presentation, how well the design was communicated. 20 pts.

The Final Frontier

Students being considered for a semifinalist spot will be contacted by Future Engineers to verify eligibility and ask questions about the design submitted. Finalists will be required to answer interview questions in a video chat with the Judges Panel.

The design guidelines for the Star Trek Replicator Challenge are kid friendly. The Future Engineers project encourages all enterprising students inventors from K-12 to participate in hopes that they may one day prosper and live long, regardless of their skills in creating 3D renderings on the computer. They want to encourage any and every child to try.

The press release can also be viewed on Star Trek’s Official website. The lists of prizes are posted there as well. The challenge ends May 1, 2016. The 10 semifinalists will be announced June 3, the four finalists are to be revealed June 10, and the final two winners will be notified July 5.

NASA is continuously expanding into outer space and exploring how to go further, longer. Veggie, the plant growing facility installed on the ISS, was a mere idea 50 years ago. In the fall of 2015, astronauts who cared for the romaine were able to taste it in space.

By Jeanette Smith


Future Engineers: Contest Rules Summary/Design Guidelines
Future Engineers: Learn Science – Classroom Possibilities
Image Courtesy of Chris Devers’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License