Two Future Engineers Challenge Winners Selected


Two students from California — eighth grader Ryan Beam and sixth grader Emily Takara — were selected earlier this month as the winners of the Future Engineers 3D Space Container Challenge, a competition that asked students between the ages of 5 and 19 to design 3D models of containers that could be used for various purposes in a microgravity environment.

Now in its second year, the Future Engineers 3D Space Challenge series was created to inspire elementary, middle and high school students to become young innovators and engineers by enabling them to design 3D models that could potentially be manufactured in space. The ASME Foundation and NASA partnered series is hosted on FutureEngineers.org, a newly founded open innovation platform for K-12 student challenges.


Ryan Beam, an eighth-grade student from Scotts Valley Middle School in Scotts Valley, Calif., was the grand prize winner in the Teen Category of the Future Engineers 3D Space Container Challenge. Beam's winning entry, ClipCatcher, was designed to enable astronauts to cut their nails without having the clippings disperse throughout the compartment. Photo of Ryan courtesy of Amy Beam.

Beam, a 13-year old student at Scotts Valley Middle School in Scotts Valley, Calif., took top honors in the Challenge’s Teen Category with his entry, ClipCatch, a small rectangular device that helps solve a major problem that astronauts face when they clip their fingernails in space — namely, keeping the nail clippings from floating throughout the cabin. Using ClipCatch, an astronaut would simply insert a finger through a hole in one end of the container and place the fingernail clippers through a hole at the other end. Once cut, the nail clippings are trapped in the container. Beam will receive a trip to Los Angeles for a one-on-one tour of the Space Shuttle Endeavor with an astronaut and a VIP tour of Elon Musk’s SpaceX headquarters.


Emily Takara, a sixth-grade student at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Cupertino, Calif., designed the Flower Tea Cage, a small, plastic sphere-shaped cage that astronauts could use to brew and drink tea in space. Takara was the winner of the competition's Junior Category. Photo of Emily courtesy of Corinne Takara.

Emily Takara, an 11 year-old student at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Cupertino, was named the winner of the Junior Category, for students aged five to 12. For her entry, the Flower Tea Cage, Takara designed a hand-held, plastic sphere-shaped cage that astronauts could use to brew and drink tea in microgravity environments, where liquids naturally form spheres and adhere to other upon contact.

Participating in the 3D Space Container challenge was both an enjoyable and thought-provoking experience for Takara, who won a 3D printer for her school as grand prize winner in the Junior Category. “I really liked this Challenge,” she said. “It makes you think at a whole different level. I learned sometimes you have to abandon one design and take another path. I spent a lot of time working on one design. Then I changed my idea and started working on something very different. I was reluctant about changing my design because I had invested so much time into it. Once I got started on my new creation, I began to enjoy it and was having lots of fun.”

Six other finalists in the competition each received a scholarship to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. The finalists in the Teen Category were Heather Mercieca of Monrovia, Calif., for her entry ECOntainer mini-ecosystem for ants and plants; Geoffrey Thomas of Westford, Mass., for his entry Expandable Container for storage of trash or lunar materials; and Rajan Vivek of Scottsdale, Ariz., for his Hydroponic Plant Box, which would enable plants to be grown in space without soil. In the Junior Category, the three finalists were Sarah Daly of Columbia, Md., for her Fly Feeder 7.0 fruit fly keeper; William Van Dyke of Houston, Texas, for Space Terrarium V.4; and Vera Zavadskaya of Verona, N.J., for her Aquarius mixing canister.

The judging panel for this year’s Future Engineers Challenge was comprised of Astronaut Nicole Stott; Niki Werkheiser, in-space manufacturing project manager at NASA; Sanjoy Som, systems engineer, Flight Systems Implementation Branch, NASA Ames Research; and Mike Snyder, chief engineer at Made In Space Inc.

For more information on the Future Engineers program, or to see each of the 3D Space Container Challenge entries, visit http://www.futureengineers.org.