Students from around the world were recognized on July 2 for their exemplary space exploration solutions at the ninth annual FIRST LEGO Global Innovation Award ceremony in California.
FIRST is an international not-for-profit organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people’s participation and interest in science and technology.
FIRST LEGO League teams from 31 countries worldwide submitted their solutions for the competition. Submissions were reviewed by a panel of expert judges, who then selected a winning team and two runners-up after a series of interviews and presentations throughout the two-day event. The winning team received a cash award of $20,000, and both runners-up each received $5,000.
For the INTO ORBIT Challenge, FIRST LEGO League teams (students ages 9-16; ages vary by country) in 95 countries were asked to identify a human physical or social problem faced during long-duration space exploration within our Sun’s solar system and propose a solution, all while operating under the FIRST signature set of Core Values, emphasizing innovation, teamwork, and good sportsmanship. More than 323,000 children worldwide explored what’s possible when we work together to solve pressing issues facing our planet.
“In a very real sense, these kids represent the future workforce,” said Dan Burbank, senior technical fellow for Collins Aerospace and FIRST team mentor. “ Collins Aerospace supports programs like FIRST because they make kids aerospace-savvy, curious, and innovative, and they will bring that same energy and talent to our company and the future workforce.“FIRST is a great recruiting tool and proofing ground, building a workforce that is nimble, innovative, relentless, passionate – qualities we want to develop solutions beyond the next generation, beyond this orbit.”
The winners were:
- CosmoCup by FrancoDroid of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Although a woman’s menstrual cycle can go uninterrupted in space, there are not a lot of waste-disposal systems aboard a spacecraft that are set up to handle a female period. This results in female astronauts choosing to take contraceptives to skip their periods instead. CosmoCup creates a functional cleaning process that consists of a menstrual collector with a membrane on top, which would prevent the blood from dissipating.
- RUNNER-UP – AstroTube Clipper by Chaos Crew of Fresno, Calif., USA
Without gravity, the task of clipping finger and toenails in space is extremely tedious, inefficient, and sometimes messy. The AstroTube Clipper catches nail clippings and allows for easy disposal in zero gravity.
- RUNNER-UP – WEMIT by iDB-Tech-No-Logic of Verona, Italy
WEMIT is a machine that unknits an astronaut’s specially-made garments, passes the whole thread through a cleaning solvent and then re-arranges the clean thread on a spool, which can be put into a 3-D knitting machine.
As part of the event, the 20 semi-finalist teams attended workshops on crafting strong pitches, business models, user experience design, and additional topics led by Global Innovation Award supporters and sponsors.
“FIRST LEGO League has helped me become a better innovator, think outside the box, and not to be scared to tackle problems like scientists and engineers have been trying to solve for years,” said Camilla Salvagno, student participant on team iDB-Tech-No-Logic. “It doesn’t matter if people think your solution is too weird or too different to work. When you show you can fix a problem in a new way, they will understand. The fact that it was different is what made it successful.”
FIRST LEGO League partners with Global Innovation Award sponsors to advance the common goal of fostering innovative problem-solvers. Partners in Innovation include Booz Allen Hamilton and LEGO Education. Global Innovation Collaborations include Collins Aerospace, John Deere, Qualcomm Incorporated, and XPRIZE. The FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award is presented in cooperation with the United States Patent and Trademark Office .