NASA’s 2018 BIG Idea Challenge

NASA’s 2018 BIG Idea Challenge

NASA and NIA invite faculty and students to participate in the 2018 Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge! The BIG Idea Challenge is a university-level design competition sponsored by the Game Changing Development Program (GCD) within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, and managed by the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA).

The 2018 BIG Idea Challenge calls for teams of 3-5 students to submit robust proposals for innovations in the design, installation, and sustainable operation of a large solar power system on Mars.  This call for proposals is interested in novel concepts that emphasize innovative mechanical design, low mass and high efficiency, with viable operational approaches that assure sustained power generation on the Mars surface over the Martian year and during extended dust storms. The proposals should be 8-10 pages in length, accompanied by a 2-minute team video describing the team’s BIG Idea.

The 2018 BIG Idea Challenge invites interested teams and their faculty advisors to work together to analyze innovations in the design, installation, and sustainable operation of a large solar power system on the surface of Mars, in the following areas:

  • Novel packaging, deployment, retraction, and dust-abatement concepts
  • Lightweight, compact components including booms, ribs, substrates, and mechanisms
  • Optimized use of advanced ultra-lightweight materials and high efficiency solar cells
  • Validated modeling, analysis, and simulation techniques
  • High-fidelity, functioning laboratory models and test methods

For your convenience, we have developed a printable flyer for the 2018 BIG Idea Challenge that contains full design guidelines and constraints, and is ideal for posting in classrooms and departmental bulletin boards. Interested teams are encouraged to review the flyer carefully. Full competition details, including design constraints and submission guidelines, can also be found on the BIG Idea Website (

Based on a review of the proposal and video submissions, four (4) teams will be selected to submit full technical papers and present their concepts to a panel of NASA judges at the 2018 BIG Idea Forum, to be held March 5-6, 2018 at either the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA or the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH.

The final four qualifying teams will receive a $6,000 stipend to participate in the BIG Idea Forum. Student members from the winning team will receive offers to participate in paid summer internships at either NASA Glenn Research Center or NASA Langley Research Center, where they will continue further developing their concept under the mentorship of NASA experts.

It is my pleasure to invite your interested student teams and their faculty advisors to submit an online Notice of Intent by October 1, 2017 and submit proposals and videos by November 30, 2017.

Important Dates:

October 1, 2017 ­ Notice of Intent (NOI) deadline

November 30, 2017 ­ Proposal deadline

December 15, 2017 ­ Selection notifications will be made

February 20, 2018 ­ Technical paper deadline for 4 qualifying teams

March 5-6, 2018 ­ 2018 BIG Idea Forum

On behalf of NASA’s GCD and NIA, we hope you will consider involving your students in this exciting competition that could potentially revolutionize our ability to access and utilize power for surface operations on Mars. 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the BIG Idea team at

Kindest Regards,

The BIG Idea Program Team: Shelley Spears, Stacy Dees, and Victoria O’Leary

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