Press Release

NASA Announces University Student Design Challenge Winners

By SpaceRef Editor
June 16, 2021
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NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland recently announced the winners of its University Student Design Challenge.

“This year’s design challenge brought together undergraduate students with diverse knowledge and backgrounds from across the country,” said Darlene Walker, director of Glenn’s Office of STEM Engagement. “They used their resourcefulness to contribute to NASA’s mission while building crucial technical, communication, and team-building skills.”

The 2020-2021 University Student Design Challengefeatured two space-themed projects:

  • Space Challenge I charged students with designing a system that can perform science and exploration anywhere in the solar system with little to no modification to enable lower cost missions.
  • Space Challenge II tasked students to develop a surface system capable of ground and atmospheric analysis of Venus while surviving on the surface for at least 90 Earth days.

Space Challenge I winner, AURORA, created a universal chassis with plug-and-play science instruments and mobility capabilities that could streamline robotic exploration across our solar system.

Team AURORA members are:

  • Dr. Craig Hardgrove, advisor, and Nicole Swatton of Arizona State University, Tempe
  • Skye Rummer of University of California Merced
  • Ben Harte of Saint Mary’s College of California, Moraga
  • Delano Campos of University of California, Los Angeles
  • Xavier Salcido of Washington University in St. Louis

Space Challenge II winner, VICTRIX, from University of Texas at Austin, created a conceptual design for a suite of landers using the latest NASA technologies that could enable long-term Venus exploration in the near future. Members of VICTRIX are Rujing Zha, Zoelle Wong, Grace Calkins, Kaylee Champion, and their advisor, Adam Nokes.

“These students have shown that the future of space exploration will be in extremely capable hands as they take their place as aerospace leaders,” said Aerospace Engineer Jeff Woytach, the team lead for this year’s challenge.

The winners and their faculty advisors will be honored and deliver their winning design presentations to an audience of Glenn’s senior managers, researchers, mentors, and summer interns during a virtual event on June 17.

Media can contact winning teams at:

Nicole Swatton,, Team AURORA

Rujing Zha,, Team VICTRIX

Registration for the 2021-2022 University Student Design Challenge opens Sept. 10 and closes Oct. 22, 2021.

SpaceRef staff editor.