Fairchild Launches Nationwide ‘Maker Contest’ to Reinvent Food Production Systems for Long Distance Space Travel

At the Nation of Makers annual conference June 15-16, 2019 in Chattanooga, the national conference that brings together leaders from maker organizations that represent the U.S. maker movement, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden launched its Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest, a three-year multidisciplinary endeavor to leverage the ingenuity of minds across the nation to reinvent the systems used to grow edible plants on the International Space Station (ISS) and beyond.

“We are calling on makers across America to collaborate with us and submit their designs for gardening systems to be used aboard spacecraft,” said Dr. Carl Lewis, Director of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. “The Maker Contest is a unique opportunity for everyone to get involved on the ground floor and help meet the challenges of growing food in long distance space travel.”

The contest is open to professional, college and high school teams. Entries to the contest will be assessed and judged by NASA engineers and botanists, and winning proposals will be considered for implementation on future NASA missions.

As NASA looks toward a long-term human presence beyond Earth orbit, they face specific science, technology, engineering, and mathematics challenges related to food production in space. Through the Maker Contest, Fairchild’s goal is to harness the creativity and talent throughout a national network of makerspaces, and its local community, to address those challenges, which include (1) how to efficiently use three-dimensional plant growing space aboard spacecraft, (2) how to maintain plants without human intervention, and (3) how to design a fully automated robotic planting and harvesting system.

Fairchild’s Growing Beyond Earth Innovation Studio in Miami is the world’s first makerspace in a botanic garden. Grants totaling approximately $1 million from NASA ($750,000) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services ($250,000)support the new, first-of-its-kind community workspace dedicated to the technology of growing food. It will serve students in elementary, middle and high schools, local community members of all ages, and makers throughout the U.S.

“Together with maker leaders, we are looking to inspire a new group of innovators to effectively address the challenges of food technology production in space,” said Amy Padolf, Fairchild’s Director of Education. Padolf has been invited to speak on a panel on Community and Government Partnerships on June 24, 2019 at the 4th annual Capitol Hill Maker Faire in Washington, DC in celebration of the American Maker movement as a part of the National Week of Making.

In the first phase, Fairchild hopes to attract as many as 100 teams to participate. In the second phase, judges will award $500 to 15 teams to support prototyping and testing of their design. In the final phase, three top winners will be chosen in each category – professional, college and high school. The winners will receive a stipend to attend the 2020 Nation of Makers annual conference.

To apply for the Maker Contest, visit Instructables. Designs must be submitted by February 3, 2020, and the winning designs will be announced February 14, 2020. Judges for this contest will include NASA engineers and botanists, and winning proposals will be considered for implementation on future NASA missions.

The Growing Beyond Earth Innovation Studio is being developed in collaboration with Moonlighter Miami, a makerspace with broad local outreach programs. The Nation of Makers is a nonprofit organization that fosters collaboration among makerspaces nationwide.

Source: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

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