The International Space Station has a new 3D printer, and NASA wants students to help put it to good use.
The space program is holding a contest for students ages 5-19 to create designs for tools that can be printed on the printer and then used to help astronauts at the station. The printer arrived at the station via space capsule last month as part of an effort to see how viable 3D printing is in the outreaches of our galaxy.
“We don’t have overnight shipping up in space,” explains astronaut Doug Wheelock, “so when we really need something we have to wait.”
What tools could these future astronauts make to assist space station inhabitants? Wheelock advises students to “think beyond wrenches and hammers.” The contest website at futureengineers.org asks brainstorming questions like: How can 3D printing help solve a medical emergency in space? How do you water plants in Zero-Gravity? What do astronauts miss most from home?
Winners of the contest in the 13-19 age division will meet NASA astronauts at the program’s Huntsville, Ala., base, and see their design among the first items the printer actually prints off for use in the space station. The winner in the 5–12 division will be awarded a 3D printer for their school.
To enter, submit your design at the contest website. Entries are due by Dec. 15 and winners will be revealed on Jan. 30.