There’s a lot of thought put into the way that astronauts eat when they’re out exploring the confines of our Solar System, implementing special packaging and preparation to ensure that spoilage won’t occur. Even on the International Space Station, astronauts still have to eat three meals a day, and, as we gear up to further explore the surface of our moon and beyond in the near future, we must continue to reinvent the way food is eaten in space. Future Engineers is reaching out to the youngest and brightest minds to help prepare the tools of the future that will help us eat in outer space, asking students from Kindergarten to 12th grade to create a digital 3D model of a non-edible, food-related object to be 3D printed in space in the year 2050.
Future Engineers is teaming up with Star Trek and NASA for The Star Trek Replicator Challenge, which is calling upon all junior Starfleet members to design a 3D printable object meant to assist astronauts with the eating process. Ideas for designs include space-based farming equipment, bioreactors, food storage, and even insect chambers (yum). As far as rules go, the design must be fully 3D printable with a 6 x 6 x 6 inch print area. It also must be created with a particular space environment in mind, such as the Earth’s Moon, another planet, another planet’s moon, or for a lengthy future flight in a spacecraft. The challenge, which is split into Teen and Junior contestants, is running until May 1st, and is being judged on the following criteria:
- Innovation and Creativity of the Non-Edible Space Food Object
- Quality of the 3D Model and Compliance with the Design Guidelines
- Design’s Ability to Advance Human Space Exploration as a 3D Print
- Presentation skills: Ability to Communicate your Design
NASA will provide the top ten chosen designs from both the Junior and Teen groups with a 3D Printing in Space Prize Pack. The four finalist in each of the two age groups will win a 3D printer for their school, and will also receive a PancakeBot pancake printer for themselves. The Grand Prize for The Star Trek Replicator Challenge is a free trip to New York City, where the winner will visit the Space Shuttle Enterprise with an actual astronaut, as well as take home a mystery Prize Pack from Star Trek! Even as a grown 25-year-old man, the idea of hanging out with an astronaut and getting Star Trek goodies enthralls me (if only I had a kid of my own!). You can sign up your innovative Starfleet cadet for the challenge on the Future Engineers website.