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Additive Manufacturing Grand Challenge

The Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation (VT-ARC) and the Virginia Tech Design Research and Education for Additive Manufacturing Systems (DREAMS) Lab held the inaugural Additive Manufacturing (AM) Grand Challenge on 15 May 2014 in Blacksburg, VA—an event funded largely by AFOSR with support from a number of other government and private organizations. This Grand Challenge was the first of its kind in the United States, featuring university student teams’ designed and fabricated operational, remotely piloted ground or air vehicle specifically using AM technology. The goal of the Grand Challenge was to engage the next-generation of scientists and engineers, inspiring them to work on problems of interest to the Air Force and the broader DoD community.

Team Lobstrosity, made up of Philip Lambert, Earl Campaigne, and Logan Sturm, were awarded first place in both the ground and air categories, as well as the Shortest Build Time, Best Use of AM, and Best Performance. The winning team received $3,000 for each first place win and an additional $500 for each sub award. Second place and third place winners for each category received $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. Each team that submitted an operational design received $250.

As the primary funder of this challenge, AFOSR has long placed a heavy interest in workforce development. Teaming up with the VT DREAMS Lab, this challenge focused on developing the future scientific and engineering workforce through AM and provided a space to bring students together to work on a meaningful real-world problem. The AM focus allowed for fewer constraints in creation than traditional manufacturing and provided hands-on experience combined with real-world application in an actual lab setting. Challenges such as these inspire creative design, help identify knowledge gaps, and prepare the next generation of AM innovators in ways that written reports alone cannot replicate. The BRICC team identified this initial Grand Challenge as a pilot opportunity for AFOSR. With the success of this pilot, future challenges will welcome multiple universities and broader communities of interest to include high schools, Maker hubs, and other non-traditional innovators. According to Dr. David Stargel, “This avenue provides an exciting opportunity to test future fielding technologies and for AFOSR to build on this success to take Additive Manufacturing competitions regionally and nationally.”

For more on the Challenge, you may visit the Virginia Tech Additive Manufacturing Design Competition website: http://vt-arcdc.org/.