NASA Exploration Design Challenge

Friday, 13 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Ashlyn N. Taylor, Kansas Junior Academy of Science, Stark, KS
High school students from across the United States were challenged by Lockheed-Martin and NASA to design a prototype to block cosmic radiation on future trips to Mars and beyond. Different materials were tested using UV radiation and gamma radiation. The Erie, Kansas NASA Exploration Design Challenge team, Erion, did much background research on radiation shielding materials and the effects of radiation on astronauts. The students read many scientific articles containing prior research on these subjects. After the research, the students began to test different materials that they had brainstormed.  Out of the many materials tested by the team, the materials chosen were selected because they were natural materials. The exception was the outer acrylic glitter layer. These natural materials chosen were balsa wood, grey ceramic, and felt. After the team chose materials, they created their design. The design consisted of a balsa wood box with a ceramic sphere inside. The sparkly outer layer was chosen because it reflects the radiation. Balsa wood was chosen because it has a low density. The ceramic sphere is where the sensors are to be placed for testing. The felt will be used as a protection source for the sphere as well also blocking radiation itself. Once this was completed, the team created their design process document. After submission, the team was selected as one of the five national finalists.  The team travelled to Washington D.C., where the national winner was announced.