BU engineers host NASA competition

Bradley engineers will partner with NASA to host an out-of-this-world competition: 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge.

The task is to build a habitat for astronauts using a 3-D printer, one that will be functional on Mars. The competition is separated into phases of designing the habitats, gathering materials for the habitats and then constructing them.

The final stage of the competition will be from Aug. 24 to Aug. 27, when the registered teams meet at Caterpillar Edwards Demonstration and Learning Center to present their finished habitats.

Since Bradley will host the challenge, Lex Akers, dean of Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology, said Bradley students will not be able to participate due to a conflict of interest.

Although Bradley students will not be building the habitats, Akers said the possible advancement of 3-D printing technology through this challenge could help the need for habitats on Earth.

“Think about the need for housing in places like Africa, the [Middle] East,” Akers said. “There [are] enormous needs [for habitats] when there’s a hurricane that comes through [or] some natural disaster. Just think, instead of putting up old tents, we could build concrete structures … and people within a day or so would have good, stable housing until they can get things stabilized.”

Additionally, Akers said there is still a place for Bradley students in the challenge to help organize the event.

“There will be scores of [Bradley] students that will be involved,” Akers said. “It’s a great chance for them to meet some fascinating companies that will be engaged in this competition.”

Akers said the competition has already brought in publicity from around the world, and he said he hopes the competition will continue to bring attention to Bradley.

“We have received requests for information and had dialogues with, I’m going to guess, 20 [to] 30 countries around the world who have people who are quite interested in this [competition],” Akers said.

Pelin Gultekin, technical consultant of the competition, said she is excited for the creativity that could come from the competition.

“I’m interested in new material systems,” Gultekin, assistant professor of civil engineering and construction, said. “There will be some new compositions [that] will be applicable on Mars, but those technologies and material compositions can be used on Earth, too. I’m mostly interested in that part, like looking forward to seeing new, creative compositions with the use of sustainable ingredients.”