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Glenn University Student Design Challenges

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is America’s civil space program and the global leader in space exploration. The agency has a diverse workforce of just under 18,000 civil servants, and works with many more U.S. contractors, academia, and international and commercial partners to explore, discover, and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.


Research and technology (R&T) development of innovative aeronautics- and space-related technologies at NASA Glenn Research Center dates back to 1941. The Center invites teams of undergraduate students to get involved in its R&T efforts by participating in the implementation of its sponsored University Student Design Challenge (USDC). The USDC comprises aeronautics-themed projects and space-themed projects, all of which encourage teams of participating students to use out-of-box approaches to solve specific problems to benefit NASA mission needs.


  • The USDC promotes participation through multidisciplinary teams of students with STEAM majors to address societal needs for an optimal use of technical and employable skills to drive and sustain workplace productivity.
  • Using the resourcefulness of students with diverse knowledge will increase the ability and creativity of the teams and foster team-building and communication skills which, in turn, can enhance workplace productivity.
  • The Design Challenge encourages a multidisciplinary view of knowledge resulting from varied ideas and feasibilities.


Participation of any challenge consists of the following elements:

Teams of from 3 to 6 individuals work with a faculty advisor and NASA technical experts to research and develop solutions to one of the aeronautics or space related challenge proposed by NASA . The time commitment is from mid-October to mid- March, during which time the team is to deliver a mid-term presentation, a final presentation, a written report not to exceed 12 pages, and a 2-to 3-minute video that shows the team building or developing their design from start to finish.


Eligibility for the USDC competition extends to full-time junior- or senior-year undergraduate students in accredited U.S. academic institutions who are enrolled in multidisciplinary majors in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) disciplines. Equally eligible are students majoring in economics, marketing, graphic arts, or other disciplines that would aid in successful execution of the Challenge projects. Each team of participating students is required to have an on-campus faculty advisor. The team of students will have access to NASA Glenn subject matter experts (SMEs) as off-campus technical mentors to complement on-campus faculty advisors.

Key Dates

  • Registration Opens: October 12, 2023 (Registration is closed)
  • Registration Deadline: November 3, 2023
  • Event Ends: April 12, 2024

USDC Challenge Guide

The USDC Guide is a downloadable, printable reference manual that provides detailed instruction and overview of the University Design Challenge.

Featured Challenge

True Zero Emission Unified Powertrain Architecture for Electric Aircraft

Application/Registration Information

2023-2024 USDC Team Registration

Contact Information

Jeresha Nixon
Education Program Specialist

Glenn Research Center – Office of STEM Engagement

Phone: (216) 433-6656

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