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2025 Drop Tower Challenge

WHAT?

Teams of grade 8-12 students are challenged to design and build simple objects that will address a challenge, likely featuring fluid behavior related to wetting characteristics, when they experience apparent weightlessness, i.e., microgravity, in NASA’s 2.2 Second Drop Tower (shown below).  The challenge details will be worked out by mid-2024, but as an example of how fluids like water can behave differently in microgravity, learn about the space cup that is sometimes used by astronauts.

2.2 Second Drop Tower
2.2 Second Drop Tower

Teams are only responsible for their test objects; NASA will provide the rest of the experimental hardware.  After developing their concepts, the youth prepare their proposal, consisting of conceptual drawings and a short entry form, which is e-mailed to Ed-DropTower@lists.nasa.gov.

If selected, the youth prepare their test objects based on provided guidance.  The devices are then sent to NASA where they will fall 24 meters (79 feet).  Video results of the microgravity testing is provided for student analysis and reporting.

WHO?

This design challenge is for students in grades 8-12 from U.S. schools, including the fifty states (and the tribal nations within them), District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and all DoDEA schools (which are for children of U.S. military personnel).  Except for the DoDEA schools, this challenge is not open to participants outside of the United States regardless of citizenship.

Teams will be favored over individuals in selection.  Youth are expected to do most of the work, but may get help from adults, for example in building their test objects.  Furthermore:

  1. Teams may be of any size, but a maximum of four students per team will be invited to the 2025 ASGSR meeting; see the next section.
  2. Each student may belong to no more than one team.
  3. Each team may submit no more than one proposal.
  4. An organization (e.g., school, science center, 4-H club, Scout troop) may have many teams, but it may submit no more than two proposals to NASA. It is envisioned that no more than one proposal will be selected per organization.

SELECTION?

NASA anticipates selecting up to 30 teams to build objects to be tested at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. After evaluation of the experimental results and teams’ reports, a small number of top-performing teams will be invited to present their results in a student poster session at the 2025 meeting of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research (ASGSR).

WHERE?

Participation is remote, where participants do not travel to NASA for the testing.  An exception is for those teams invited to present their results at the 2025 ASGSR meeting, but its location will not be announced until Dec. 2024.

 

COST?

Testing in the 2.2 Second Drop Tower
Testing in the 2.2 Second Drop Tower

There is no cost to participate in the challenge other than for (1) the preparation of the test objects, (2) the shipment of the test objects to NASA, and (3) travel costs for those invited to present their results at the ASGSR meeting.  Regarding the latter, the ASGSR has typically provided travel support of $500 each for invited non-local students who present their results at the conference.

WHEN?

2024 About Nov. 1 proposal deadline
Late November NASA announces teams selected for testing
Mid-December NASA provides proposal feedback
2025 Jan.-February teams prepare test objects
Mid-February deadline for arrival of test objects at NASA
Feb.-March tests conducted in NASA’s 2.2 Second Drop Tower
April analysis and report writing
May 1 deadline for written report
Mid-May NASA announces teams selected for ASGSR participation
Fall annual ASGSR meeting (typically in early November)

WHY?

Participation in a nation-wide NASA design challenge could be good to include in college applications.  And it is likely that your team will be selected for testing.  Thus far, nearly 100% of the proposing teams have been selected for participation in this annual series of problem-based drop tower challenges.

HINTS

DOWNLOADS

DropTowerChallenge-2025-flyer

QUESTIONS?  

Check https://www1.grc.nasa.gov/space/education-outreach/drop-tower-competition/, although the detailed guide and entry form won’t be available until mid-2024.  You may also email the challenge staff at Ed-DropTower@lists.nasa.gov.

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