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Maker Challenge | Year Two


Autonomous Growing Systems: Maintaining plants without human intervention.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is working with NASA to help improve food production for long duration space travel. Together, we're calling on makers across America to submit new designs for gardening systems to be used aboard spacecraft.

Growing Plant

The Problem

During crewed missions in space, astronauts have busy schedules with many demands on their time and attention. The plant growing systems aboard spacecraft should minimize the need for hands-on maintenance. Although existing systems now require human intervention for watering, adjusting lights, modifying airflow, and responding to plant stress, future systems might be able to do these things by themselves. Fully autonomous systems could support food production without any human assistance.

The Challenge

 Design, build, and test an autonomous system that can support plant growth without human intervention. Develop a smart system that might include sensors, cameras, and automated controllers for lighting, watering, and air circulation within a 50 cm cubic growing environment. Plant seeds of one or more of the predetermined plant varieties by hand, and grow them without any further human interaction over a 30 day period.

The first year challenge focused on the optimal volumetric use of the 50cm cubic growing chamber. You can reference those designs so you only have to focus on the electronic automation systems, rather than designing your own from scratch. You can see the entries here:  but you are free to come up with your own version as well! 5 Finalists will be selected from each track to refine their designs and submit to be the winning entry.

Purple Stars

Team Categories

  • High School

  • Collegiate 

  • Professional

Where to Submit

  • This years' challenge is hosted on Make: Projects.

  • Each team will be given a template as their starting point to customize and organize their work.

Violet Stars

Judging will be scored based on:

  • If the design addresses the challenge parameters

  • whether materials for the design are readily available

  • if the design works in zero or low gravity environments

  • how much edible biomass the design can produce

Purple Stars

Project Submissions Must Include:

A full submission on your build process including orthographic and isometric views of the final design

  • Materials List and Technologies List needed for your design

  • Any associated 3D Files: .stl, .obj

  • The top five teams from each category will be selected to continue to the second phase and will receive $500 to cover the build costs of their final prototypes.

Violet Stars

Finalist Submissions Must Include:

  • All of the above requirements, plus:

    • complete plant growth datasheet

    • 90 second (min.) video presentation

    • physical prototype

Finalist teams from each category will present at NOMCON 2021

The Timeline

Dec 1 | 7pm - First Webinar

 Jan 12 | 7pm - Chat with NASA Experts

 Feb 9 | 7pm - Progress Check/Critique

 Mar 9 | 7pm - Chat with NASA Experts

 Maker Faire Miami - Present Phase 1

 May 11 | 7pm - Chat with NASA Experts

 NOMCON - Finalist Presentations

Submit Your Projects!

This project is based upon work supported by NASA under award No 80NSSC18K1225. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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