NASA opens BIG Idea Challenge to students, paid internships offered to winners

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NASA wants your BIG Idea! The Breakthrough Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge is part of NASA’s initiative to send humans to Mars in the 2030s. College and university students studying in fields applicable to human space exploration can help .

This year’s challenge focuses on NASA’s efforts to rapidly mature innovative/high impact capabilities and technologies. NASA wants ideas from the acedimic community for generating lift using Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) technology.

nasa image

(Image: NASA)

Current technology for landing payloads on the surface of Mars was used for the Curiosity rover which weighs one metric ton. But engineers estimate they need to be able tu land payload masses of at least 15-30 metric tons.

For all BIG Idea Projects, attention should be given to the following:
  • Design simplicity
  • Low system mass
  • Minimal time required to vary lift-to-drag (L/D) over its full range
  • Unique combinations of existing innovative capabilities/technologies
Design concepts should:
  • be extensible to aeroshell diameters of 15 to 20 meters
  • generate modulated lift-to-drag ratio from 0.2 to 0.5
  • possess a smooth outer mold line to avoid localized heating
  • be aerodynamically stable over flight regime from 6.5 km/s to 0.6 km/s

Participants have until October 9th to give their “Notice of Intent” to NASA. The teams (of 3-5 students) then have until November 15 to submit white papers on their ideas.

Those teams asked to move onto the next phase of the challenge will then submit full technical papers with their concept. That deadline is March 6, 2016.

NASA will then select up to four teams to present their concept to a panel of judges at the 2016 BIG Idea Forum at the NASA Langley Research Center on April 18-19, 2016. Each of those teams will receive a $6,000 stipend to allow for their full participation in the forum.

The winning team will receive offers for paid internships with the Game Changing Development Program at the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia, during which they can potentially work toward a flight test of their concept.

See the BIG Idea Challenge flyer for more information.

The challenge is open to undergraduate and graduate students studying aerospace, electrical, and mechanical engineering; and life, physical, and computer sciences.