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Student Opportunities & Challenges

Keep an eye out for these outside opportunities and challenges throughout the year! 

NASA Challenges


2023 RASC-AL Competition

NASA is pioneering the future of space exploration as we extend humanity’s presence further into the solar system. The 2023 RASC-AL Competition is seeking undergraduate and graduate teams to develop new concepts that leverage innovation to improve our ability to operate on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. This year’s themes range from supporting lunar operations and tourism at the south and north poles to enabling long-term survival on the surface of Mars. In this year’s RASCAL Competition, teams and their faculty advisors are invited to design and propose innovative solutions with supporting original engineering and analysis in response to one of four themes. Homesteading Mars: Develop a crewed human exploration architecture of Mars that can enable astronauts to survive on the surface of Mars for at least 7 years with minimal support from Earth. Lunar North Pole Tourism: Develop a profitable business case and associated architecture for bringing tourists to the lunar north pole, using a mix of NASA-derived and in-development commercial systems. Lunar Surface Transporter Vehicle: Develop a vehicle concept for offloading, moving, deploying, and supporting payloads on the lunar surface, up to the scale of habitats. Multi-use Platform at L1: Develop an architecture and system concept for a platform that provides spacecraft services and logistics, as well as space observations and communications, deployed to and operated from the Earth-Moon First LaGrange Point (L1) in cislunar space.

NASA FLOATing DRAGON Balloon Challenge

There is a need for accessing data from upcoming balloon missions such as SuperBIT and TAURUS, which are proposing to collect prohibitively large amounts of telemetry data. To overcome this challenge, data recovery systems can be developed which drop data vaults for recovery. NASA is actively playing a role in the design, testing, and maintenance processes of these data vault drops to increase public safety. There is room for many creative ideas for this type of data recovery systems for NASA to consider from the university community. Through the FLOATing DRAGON (Formulate, Lift, Observe, And Testing; Data Recovery And Guided On-board Node) Balloon Challenge (aka, FLOATing DRAGON), NASA seeks proposals from eligible* teams of undergraduate and graduate students in the U.S. for innovative ideas and prototypes for a guided data vault recovery system consisting of: 1) a deployer that can be mounted to a HASP-type balloon gondola; and 2) a node that can be dropped and fall gracefully to a pre-determined, safe waypoint for recovery.

The NASA TechRise Student Challenge invites teams of sixth to 12th-grade students to design, build, and launch science and technology experiments on high-altitude balloon flights during the upcoming 2022/ 2023 school year. The winning teams will each receive $1,500 to build their payloads and be awarded an assigned spot on a NASA-sponsored commercial high-altitude balloon flight. Flight tests will offer more than four hours of float time at approximately 70,000 feet and provide exposure to Earth’s atmosphere plus views of our planet.

The 2023 BIG Idea Challenge provides undergraduate and graduate students up to $180,000 to design, develop, and demonstrate technologies that will enable the production of lunar infrastructure from ISRU-derived metals found on the Moon. Key infrastructure products desired are storage vessels for liquids and gases, extrusions, pipes, power cables, and supporting structures (i.e., roads, landing pads, etc.). Teams are invited to submit proposals for that focus on any part of the metal product production pipeline* from prospecting to testing.

Other Student Opportunities

Industry Challenges

Airport Cooperative Research Program University Design Competition for Addressing Airport Needs

The Competition challenges both individuals and teams of undergraduate and graduate students working under the guidance of a faculty advisor to address issues currently facing airports and the National Airspace System. The Competition offers open-ended, real-world issues in four broad challenge areas: Airport Operation and Maintenance; Runway Safety, Runway Incursions and Runway Excursions; Airport Environmental Interactions, and Airport Management and Planning. The challenges can be tackled by students from many STEM disciplines; business, computer science and psychology among others. Students win cash prizes and the university receives special recognition. First place will receive $3,000, second place will receive $2,000, and third place will receive $1,000. First place winners present their designs at a special ceremony at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in Washington, DC and at a relevant national conference with travel expenses covered.



The Patti Grace Smith Fellowship provides jobs, mentorship, and community for Black undergrads seeking aerospace careers. To qualify, students must: 1) Identify as Black/African American 2) Currently attend community college or an undergraduate degree program 3) Be a US Citizen or US Permanent Resident, and 4) Be seeking their first ever job / internship in the aerospace industry. Applications this year closed October 23, 2022. All majors are welcome as long as the applicant is interested in a career in the aerospace industry.

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