NASA Challenge Team Advances to the Top 10

As the 3D-Printed Habitat NASA Centennial Challenge has proceded into Phase 3 - Virtual Construction, Northwestern's team has proceded to the top 10! There were 18 submissions for the competition from industry and academia, and they have now been narrowed down to 10. 

Through four distinct competition phases, NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge will stretch the body of knowledge surrounding 3D-printing applications. Taking place 2015-2017, Phase 1 and 2 challenged industry and academia to develop conceptualizations of the first Martian outpost and 3D-print a column, beam, and small roof section using materials found on Mars. Now in Phase 3, the teams are taxed with fully designing a constructible Martian habitat and 3D-printing a foundation, walls, and a 1:3 scale habitat…all in under 16 months.

The plan is to approach this challenge as several parallel competitions. Rather than proceeding from habitat design, to material design, to 3D-printer design, etc, NU's team is having sub-teams investigate each challenge aspect simultaneously. While from initial perspective this challenge appears of significant difficulty, Northwestern is in a prime position to perform successfully. In past years, Northwestern students and faculty have investigated the feasibility of Martian regolith as a building material and developed one of the first Martian concretes. Northwestern Mechanical Engineering has numerous faculty working on additive manufacturing and a team of students recently developed a working concrete 3D-printer. In addition, the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department sets Northwestern at a significant advantage due to the number of Mars experts at such easy access.

Northwestern’s 3D-Printed Martian Habitat Team comes from a greatly varied background; not only is the project interdepartmental, but it also spans multiple colleges within the university. Even in this early stage, the team is composed of students and faculty from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Department of English, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Department of Political Science, and the Medill School of Journalism. Along with the diverse backgrounds, they also bring a wide variety of expertise; with 17 students (ranging from Undergraduate to PhD), 8 faculty members, and 1 staff member. In addition, they have partnered with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), one of the world’s largest and most influential architecture, engineering, and urban planning firms, to assist in design and all areas of the competition.

The team is led by Prof. Gianluca Cusatis, who is the faculty advisor, and Matthew Troemner, a PhD student in Northwestern's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

Watch the video submission.

Read more about the plan.