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Glenn University Student Design Challenges


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 creativity and foster students team-building and communication skills.
  • The USDC encourages a multidisciplinary view of knowledge resulting from varied ideas and feasibilities.


Teams of three or more students work with a faculty advisor and NASA technical experts to research and develop solutions to one of the mission defined aeronautics or space related challenges proposed by NASA. The time commitment is from October to April, 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. Once the winners of the challenge(s) are announced, each of the winning teams and their respective faculty advisors will be invited to present their designs to an audience of GRC senior leadership and Center personnel, including subject matter experts (SMEs); summer student fellows and interns; and faculty fellows.


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: June 24, 2024

USDC Challenge Guide

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

Featured Challenge

2024 – 2025 Challenges coming soon

Application/Registration Information

2024 – 2025 Application coming soon

Contact Information

Jeresha Nixon, M.Ed.
Education Program Specialist

Glenn Research Center – Office of STEM Engagement

Phone: (216) 433-6656

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