Our City X Project team is over the moon with our newest announcement: we’re going to space! At least, a piece of our Project is. Thanks to a new partnership with Made in Space, a NASA-funded company bringing 3D printing to the International Space Station, one lucky kid who creates an inspiring invention during a City X Project workshop this year will have their creation 3D-printed by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station. If everything goes according to plan, this 3D-printed invention will even be sent back to Earth on a space shuttle and returned for that lucky kid to keep. They will hold one of the first things ever truly made in space.
How did this partnership come to be? Space is actually a central component in the story of City X. We present to the kids a challenge in the framework of a story: Humans have landed on an Earth-like alien planet and are building the first settlement there, called City X. All they have with them in City X is a 3D printer. Each of the 34 characters in our story is then partnered with one child in each of our workshops, who must invent a solution to an issue faced by that character. We teach kids about the design process and prototyping, and demonstrate how 3D printers can be used to create just about anything imaginable to solve these problems.
While these may be fictitious citizens living on a faraway planet, the problems they face are representative of key social issues we face on Earth today, such as issues regarding health, environment, transportation, and others. Through this story and with the help of 3D printing technology, we empower kids to imagine, invent, and create a better future for the characters of City X, and for ourselves.
Working with Made in Space to 3D-print one of our kids’ inventions is a spectacular opportunity to make the point that our science fiction story is not so much fiction as it is science. Already we are bringing 3D printers to the International Space Station, and already there are projects focused on using 3D printing technologies to establish the first moon base. Within the lifetimes of the kids in our workshops, we really could be using space travel and 3D printers to build the first city on a planet other than Earth. This is an idea that ignites the imaginations of kids and encourages them, our team, and the team at Made in Space to care deeply about STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math).
Details are not yet finalized as to how a specific invention will be chosen to print on the International Space Station. While we are extraordinarily excited about the opportunity and hope to have the invention printed in 2014, we will be patiently working within the constraints of astronauts’ busy schedules, as well as the constraints of the first-ever zero-gravity 3D printer. Dimensions, shapes, size, and astronauts’ schedules will all play a factor in the printability of, or, possibly, the ability to print any given child’s invention.