Monsi Roman (far left) from NASA presenting Jeffrey Montes (left) Kelsey Lents (middle left), Melodie Yashar (middle right), and Michael Morris (far right) with the $25,000 winning check.

Monsi Roman (far left) from NASA presenting Jeffrey Montes, Kelsey Lents, Melodie Yashar, and Michael Morris with the $25,000 winning check.

Back in May, during Maker Faire Bay Area, NASA announced a new $2.25 million competition to design and build a 3D printed habitat intended for deep space exploration.

The challenge, a collaboration between NASA and America Makes, was to run in two parts. The initial phase, a design competition, called on participants to develop concepts to take advantage of the unique capabilities of 3D printing.

“The future possibilities for 3D printing are inspiring, and the technology is extremely important to deep space exploration. This challenge definitely raises the bar from what we are currently capable of, and we are excited to see what the Maker community does with it.” — Sam Ortega, NASA

Over the 5 months that the first stage of the competition ran, there were 162 applications, and the top 30 finalists were here at Maker Faire New York for the announcement of the winners, and the awarding of the prize purse of $50,000 (to be split between the top three entries) by Monsi Roman, the new Director for the Centennial Challenges Program.

Ahead of that announcement we talked to Monsi about the NASA challenges that are currently open for submissions, and her plans to set up a makerspace on the International Space Station.

During the presentation of prizes, three teams were awarded honourable mentions. These were Molluscs L5, Hemispheric Habitat and the Bubble Base.

“The ideas that came in were absolutely amazing, way beyond what we thought would come in. We were asking the community to imagine what a habitat would look like on Mars”

There were also three awards for the Best in Class, the first for “Use of Space” went to Seed Habitat, the next for “Design” went to the Neo Native, the last for “Technical” went to the Donut House. There was also a People’s Choice award based on ballots cast by attendees here at Maker Faire, this went to team Gamma.

Finally, the first runner-up award (fourth place) was given to Hybrid Composites.

The selection process involved a whole team of people, with a series of elimination rounds, after which surviving teams were asked to provide final white papers on their design. 

Amy Bechtel, from America Makes, awarded all the teams a NASA meatball which was 3D printed especially for the winners by 3D Systems. But three teams finished in the money.

In third place was the Lava Hive, who walked away with $10,000, in addition to winning the People’s Choice award, team Gamma also came in second place, earning themselves $15,000.

Team #20, the Ice House. The winner of the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge.

Team #20, the Ice House. The winner of the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge.

However the winner of the challenge was the Ice House, whose team was awarded $25,000. The team behind the Ice House has their roots in the Space Studio at Columbia University, with the design being a collaboration between two groups; the SEArch consortium consisting of Kelsey Lents, Melodie Yashar, Jeffrey Montes, Michael Morris, and Christina Ciardullo, alongside CloudsAO consisting of Yuko Sono, Masa Sono, and Ostap Rudakevych.

The next stage of the competition is divided into two levels. The first is the Structural Member Competition focusing on fabrication technologies needed to manufacture structural components from indigenous materials and recyclables. The second, the On-Site Habitat Competition, challenges competitors to fabricate full-scale habitats. Both levels of the competition opened for registration today after the prize announcements were made, each carries a $1.1 million prize.