Growing Beyond Earth Maker Challenge

2020-2021 Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest

We’re calling on makers across America to submit their designs for growing plants in space. You’ll have to design, prototype, and test your design – then the engineers and scientists at NASA will select the winning proposal to be considered for implementation in the International Space Station. You can help NASA’s mission for long-distance space exploration with this critical component for sustaining life beyond Earth – growing edible plants!


  • Optimize for maximum plant growth
  • Design a system that allows for more edible plants to grow healthily in the fixed volume of space in the ISS.
  • Plan for embedded technologies: Keep in mind the volume needed for LED lighting, watering systems, sensors, soil, etc.
  • Think about how the chamber is built: With the cost of launching cargo being so high, how can you create a modular or collapsible structure to lower the cost of deploying the chamber.

The first year’s contest 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!

This contest is open to High School, College, and Professional teams. Five finalists will be selected from each track to refine their designs and submit to be the winning entry.

YEAR 2 – Autonomous Growing Systems
Maintaining plants without human intervention

 Download the Maker Contest Description

 Register on MAKE:Projects To Participate

ProblemDuring crewed missions in space, astronauts have busy schedules with many demands on their time and attention. 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.

Your ChallengeDesign, 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.

Program Schedule

  • December 1, 2020, at 7:00 pm – Welcome and Program Overview via ZOOM 
  • January 12, 2021, at 7:00 pm – Chat with the Scientist via Zoom
  • February 9, 2021, at 7:00 pm – Phase 1 Critique (Details to follow)
  • April 2021 – Phase 1 Presentation at Maker Faire Miami (Details to follow)
  • May 11, 2021, at 7:00 pm – Chat with the Scientists via Zoom
  • June 2021 – Nation of Makers Annual Conference
  • July/Aug 2021 – Winners Announced
To Register for Webinars, Please Fill Out This Form

Submission Requirements

Team Categories:

  • High school 
  • College
  • Professional 

Judging will be scored based on:

  • If the design addresses the contest parameters
  • Whether materials for the design are readily available
  • If the design considered zero or low gravity environments
  • How much edible biomass the design can produce

Your project submission 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 or .obj. 

The top five teams from each category will be selected to continue to the second phase.

Finalist’s submissions must include:

All of the above requirements, plus:

  • complete plant growth datasheet
  • 90 second (min.) video presentation
  • physical prototype

One winning team from each category will be awarded a cash prize and be invited to present at the 2021 Nation of Makers Annual Conference where they will showcase their designs.

Meet the Judges

Dr. Gioia Massa, NASA Plant Research
Trent Smith, NASA Procurment
Ralph Fritsche, NASA Veggie Project Manager