NASA conducted 3-D Space Container Challenge in which K-12 students in the United States were invited to design models of containers that could help astronauts keep things in order in space. In the challenge two Indian-American teenagers, Rajan Vivek from Arizona and Prasanna Krishnamoorthy from Delaware have made their way among the top 10 finalists. The challenge is second in the series of Future Engineers Challenges which is an education platform that hosts and develops design challenges for young innovators.
The 3-D Space Container Challenge was conducted by NASA in collaboration with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation. The program was launched on May 12, 2015 and last date to submit the entries was August 2, 2015. Ten semi-finalists were announced on 2nd September. After going through other stages of selection process, the winners of the Future Engineers 3-D Space Container Challenge were announced on October 8, 2015.
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However, the two Indian American teenagers failed to win the prestigious competition but made their stand in teen semi-finalist category and amongst them, Rajan Vivek was chosen among 4 finalists. The Teen Winner title went to Ryan Beam of California. Ryan Beam has won a one-on-one tour of a space shuttle with an astronaut and VIP tour of SpaceX to Los Angeles. The four selected teen finalists have won a scholarship to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. The top 10 semifinalists have won a $50 gift certificate from Shapeways.
Rajan Vivek developed a ‘Hydroponic Plant Box container’ to get rid of the challenge of containing water in a micro-gravity environment while still allowing plants to grow roots in it. As per the views of NASA, “Hydroponics, growing plants without soil, would be very effective in spacecrafts because it requires less space and plants grow faster and stronger.”
While on the other hand, Prasanna developed a ‘collapsible container’. The views given by NASA on the development, “In order to use the limited space on international Space Station, the Collapsible Container can expand and compress to perfectly fit its contents. When empty, it can compress fully for easy storage.”
Niki Werkheiser, NASA’s In-Space Manufacturing project manager said, “The simplest tasks on Earth can be quite challenging and even dangerous, in space.” Further he added, “Being able to 3-D print technical parts, as well as the lifestyle items that we use every day will not only help enable deep space travel, but can make the trip more pleasant for astronauts.”
All in all the winning entries laid focus on how the life in space can be made a little bit comfortable for astronauts. NASA said, “The 3-D Space Container Challenge asked students to design models of containers that could be used in space.”
Interested students across the US killed their time in summer using 3-D modelling software to design containers that could be 3-D printed keeping in mind the ultimate aim that ‘How the human space exploration on the International Space Station, Mars and beyond can be made advanced ?‘ The designed containers range from simple containers that could be used to hold collected rocks on Mars or an astronaut’s food, to advanced containers for experiments that study fruit flies.