BIG Idea Challenge

The Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge is an initiative supporting NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s (STMD’s) Game Changing Development Program’s (GCD) efforts to rapidly mature innovative and high-impact capabilities and technologies for infusion in a broad array of future NASA missions.

Funded by GCD and the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Project, this NASA-sponsored engineering design competition seeks innovative ideas from the higher education academic community for new topics each year that are relevant to current GCD priorities.

Participation is open to teams of undergraduate and graduate students at accredited U.S.-based colleges and universities officially affiliated with their state's Space Grant Consortium

Through the BIG Idea Challenge, teams of 5-25 students and their faculty advisors submit proposals to the judging panel, who narrow down the field to 5-8 finalist teams annually. Finalist teams receive a development stipend of up to $180,000 to facilitate participation in the competition, including expenses for hardware development, materials, testing equipment, software, etc.

Finalist teams will spend nine months further designing, developing, building, and testing their proposed concepts and submit a 15-20 page technical paper on their testing results. A mid-project review ensures teams maintain timely progress on their proposed concepts. Finalist teams will travel to the annual BIG Idea Forum in the Fall to present their concepts in a technical design review (that includes a proof-of-concept demonstration) to the judging panel. At its discretion, GCD may choose to further fund the development any concept that has potential to be “flight-ready.”