A team of Dartmouth engineering students has been named winners of the 2019 NASA BIG Idea Challenge for its innovative design for a Mars greenhouse that can grow food and sustain a crew of astronauts on a future mission to the red planet.
The team, made up of undergraduates at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering, pitched their winning proposal to top scientists at NASA and National Institute of Aerospace at NASA’s Langley Research Center this week in Hampton, Virginia, where they competed against four other top university-team finalists for the top honor.
“The BIG Idea Challenge has been an amazing experience and I’m thrilled that we won,” said Zoe Rivas ’18, co-manager of the Dartmouth team. “I’m so excited to see what happens next with our greenhouse design and what NASA will do with all of the great ideas we saw in this competition.”
This is the first time that a Dartmouth team has entered – and won – NASA’s Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge, a national engineering competition that elicits solutions from some of the best and brightest students for some of NASA’s pressing, real-time space exploration challenges.
The team’s greenhouse design, initially conceived as the students’ senior capstone project, won for its innovation in food production and crop cultivation, as well as mechanical and aerospace engineering elements of the design.
“I can’t begin to explain how exciting this is,” said Alexa Escalona ’18, the team’s co-manager. “This validates all of the late nights and hard work.”