The American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation, working with NASA and Star Trek, invited the next generation of astronauts and Starfleet cadets to engineer the future of food production in space through the third “Future Engineers” challenge aimed at educating students K-12 about 3-D printing and engineering design. The Starfleet Replicator Challenge kicked off on February 16, 2016, at a Kids’ Week event at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City, and ran through May 1. Finalist interviews were conducted June 28, as each finalist presented his or her design to a panel of expert judges that included NASA Astronaut Charles Camarda. The winners were announced this morning.
Kyle Corrette of Phoenix, Arizona, was declared the Teen Winner (ages 13-19), with a design called Melanized Fungarium (www.futureengineers.org/Gallery/Details/4264). "In this challenge, it was amazing to be treated as an equal by such accomplished professionals," Corrette said. "I felt like my ideas were taken seriously and I learned a lot about the 3D modeling process. I feel very proud to be recognized on a national scale for my design, especially since I put a lot of hard work into it. More importantly, though, even though this was a competition, every participant was working towards the same goal. In that sense, I liked feeling as if were all on the same team."
The other teen finalists included Navya Annapareddy Haymarket of Virginia, with Cosmoaquaponics; Ansel Austin of California, with Spirulina Farm; and Thomas Salverson of Nebraska, with Multi-Purpose Mug.
Nagasai Sreyash Sola of Ashburnn, Virginia, was named the Junior Winner (ages 5-12), and his design was named Astro Mini Farm (www.futureengineers.org/Gallery/Details/4420). "It was really an intriguing learning experience and I learned a lot about space, Mars and 3D printing," Sola said. "It was a life-time opportunity to talk to astronauts, NASA, ASME and Made in Space officials. It is like one of my dreams coming true."
The other junior finalists were Owen DuFrene of Oregon, with E-Z Blender; Tobias Platt of New Jersey, with Water Condenser; and Emily Takara of California, with Bioreactor Ornament.
The Replicator used throughout the Star Trek franchise has long been a concept of science fiction. Starfleet officers asked, the food appeared, and phrases like “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot,” famously produced a cup of hot tea. While the Replicator has often been cited as a foreshadowing of modern 3D printing technology, it wasn’t until 2014 that 3D printing in space became science fact. NASA sent the first 3D printer to the International Space Station in 2014 and astronauts have successfully printed a variety of tools, containers and test samples on orbit.
Together with the ASME Foundation, NASA has extended the reach of this 3D printer’s initial mission by engaging students with a series of "Future Engineers" space innovation challenges aimed to inspire and educate the next generation of scientists and engineers. The third in the series, the Star Trek Replicator challenge asked students to boldly go where no one has gone before with 3D printing to design solutions that help astronauts "live long and prosper." Specifically, the challenge was intended for students to think about future long-duration space missions and asked students to design 3D printable objects that will help astronauts eat nutritious meals in the year 2050. Examples of possible designs included hardware needed to grow and harvest plants to hardware needed to prepare, eat and dispose of food. A total of 405 submissions were received.
Corrette and Sola will be awarded a grand-prize trip to New York City for a private viewing of the Space Shuttle Enterprise with former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and a VIP tour of MakerBot Industries’ Brooklyn Headquarters. For more information about Future Engineers and the Star Trek Replicator Challenge please visit: www.futureengineers.org.