Press Release

NASA, NIA Announce Student Engineering Competition

By SpaceRef Editor
August 15, 2011
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NASA, NIA Announce Student Engineering Competition
NASA, NIA Announce Student Engineering Competition

HAMPTON, Va. – NASA is challenging university students to solve space exploration challenges. The RASC-AL (Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage) contest, sponsored by NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA), seeks engineering ideas that could potentially provide solutions to issues faced by current NASA projects.

“RASC-AL is born out of the desire to get new, creative, innovative ideas outside the traditional box,” said Pat Troutman, Strategic Analysis Manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center. “If you never innovate, you never progress.”

Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to select one of four themes for their project: Near-Earth Object Flexible Mission Architecture Designs; Earth Orbit Debris Mitigation and Satellite Servicing Missions; Human-Focused Mars Mission Systems and Technologies; and Lunar Outpost to Settlement Architectures.

“RASC-AL puts forth real-world problems as themes that NASA is actually facing at the current time,” said Doug Craig, Strategic Analysis Manager at NASA Headquarters. “They are very relevant, and very timely. This gives students a better understanding of what’s going on outside of the universities and gives them solid experience getting up to present to a large group of their peers.”

In addition to addressing the technical aspects of these themes, the 2012 RASC-AL competition includes focused criteria on reliability and human safety options, including a variety of human health components that teams may address. NASA and NIA are also looking for students to generate novel methods of engaging the general public in human exploration missions, and will require that students conduct education and public outreach as part of their project.

Interested student teams are invited to submit a Notice of Intent by Nov. 11 and a five-page summary of their proposed project and educational outreach plan by Jan. 20, 2012. The RASC-AL Steering Committee, made up of NASA and industry judges, will review each team’s abstract and announce the finalists by Feb. 15, 2012. Selected teams will fully develop their proposed solution to the design challenge, and present to NASA and industry experts at the 2012 RASC-AL Forum in Cocoa Beach, Fla., in June. Teams presenting at the forum will receive funds to help with travel expenses and registration fees.

As many as 10 undergraduate teams and five graduate teams may be selected to compete against each other at the forum. The June forum provides faculty and students the opportunity to network with NASA and industry experts, introduce concepts and data from the competition into NASA exploration program planning, and increase the NASA-university-industry linkage.

For more information about RASC-AL, visit:

For more information on NASA’s future exploration efforts, visit:

For more information about the National Institute of Aerospace, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.