The Exploration Habitat Academic Innovation Challenge, or X-Hab competition, is sponsored by NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation and gives undergraduate engineers a chance to design, manufacture, assemble, and test concepts that could potentially be used in deep space habitats.
Seven contestants have already been selected for the 2014 competition. They include a University of Colorado — Boulder team designing systems to grow plants in deep space, two University of Maryland — College Park teams studying neutral buoyancy, parabolic flight and vertical habitability, and a Rice University team designing power generation and cooling systems. Around June 2014, the projects will be transported to and integrated with the the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Deep Space Habitat (DSH) project, which develops prototypes for future manned missions outside of Earth’s orbit. Awards of $10,000 to $20,000 each go toward designing the projects. Participants normally need to submit a proposal one year in advance. Check the X-Hab website for updated information on the current contest as well as future deadlines.