September 6, 2013
NASA LEGO Design Contest Winners Announced
[ Watch the Video: LEGO NASA Contest Winners ]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
No longer solely used by elementary school kids to make multicolor approximations of animals or automobiles, LEGOs have found a place in the hearts of artists and engineers alike.
In a new competition, "NASA's Future Missions: Imagine. Invent. BUILD,” the US space agency looked to harness the creative spirit of LEGO builders and inspire a generation. Competitors were told to create their vision for the next generation of spaceflight or air travel using the tiny plastic bricks.
"Our intention was to unleash everyone's creativity and inspire participants to combine real NASA research with imaginative flights of fancy. Looking at the winning designs, it's clear we did just that," said Leland Melvin, NASA's associate administrator for education and judge for the competition.
In the aviation category, "Inventing the Future of Flight,” participants designed their concepts around actual goals pursued by NASA's aeronautical engineers, such as creating aerodynamic shapes, considering technologies that boost fuel efficiency and reducing both harmful emissions and noise.
Along with their design, participants in the aviation category were told to submit a technical paper detailing aspects of the model's design and how it utilizes ideas NASA has in mind or even improves upon them.
William Nodvik, 16, was the winner in the young student builders group that included ages 13 through 18. His winning design and technical paper was entitled "Flying Extinguisher 4000 'Fish Eagle;' An Aerial Firefighter of the Future."
Conceived as a long range supertanker designed for putting out wildfires, Nodvik’s design has vertical and short field takeoff and landing capabilities (V/STOL) and a wing design that allows the airplane to fly for long distances.
"We were really impressed by the level of detail and thought in this model,” the contest judges wrote. “We could easily see the V/STOL engines noted, and the pontoons for landing and water storage. The length and shape of the wings were cleverly and beautifully designed with nature in mind.”
Claes Sundstrom from Sweden won in the overall, ages 13 and above, group for his concept entitled "Hydrogen Powered Regional Airliner."
Sundstrom described his vehicle as one that would address the challenges to reduce fuel consumption, noise and emissions through blended hybrid wing body and hydrogen-fueled, turboelectric engines.
"Here is an example of our more modern design in flight, with true smooth lines and aerodynamic curves," the contest judges wrote. “We can see this type of plane flying through our skies in the near future. We believe that the builders here truly understand what it takes to build such a plane.”
In the other part of contest, dubbed "Imagine Our Future Beyond Earth," participants used LEGO bricks to build futuristic vehicles that could potentially travel into space.
The overall winner for in this category was "The Sunbeam," designed by Jay Semlis from England. The winning concept was a satellite designed to scan the outer corona of the sun. Runners-up in this challenge included a Mars-bound craft by Sergio Parra from the United States; and a spacecraft designed to gather and move asteroids by Peter Hollander from the United States.
Winners receive a specially designed trophy and NASA memorabilia.