Over 400 first through 12th grade students will compete for ribbons at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland during the 25th Annual Young Astronaut Day on Saturday, Oct. 28 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The competition will take place in two sessions: session one is from 9 to 11 a.m., and session two is from 3 to 5 p.m. NASA astronaut and U.S. Navy Capt. Sunita Williams will deliver the keynote address at 11:15 a.m. and 2:10 p.m.

“We are very excited to be opening this event up to 60 student organizations,” said Ashlie Flegel, an aerospace engineer at Glenn and co-coordinator of Young Astronaut Day. “We will reach more youth in the surrounding region to explore team-based STEM challenges similar to the type of work being performed at NASA. Each year we see students’ creativity blossom as they solve engineering problems in this fast-paced, high-energy atmosphere.”

The students compete on “pilot” and “commander” teams with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities. The Pilots, first through sixth graders, will compete in three challenges:

The Parachute Drop Challenge – students design and build a parachute and a capsule that can accurately land the largest payload while learning about aerodynamic design and experimental methods.
The Spudnaut Challenge – students learn about protecting astronauts from the space environment by building a protective suit for a potato astronaut.
The Planetary Lander Challenge – students design a shock-absorbing method to protect a rover and other hardware from the impact of landing.
The Commanders, seventh through 12th graders, will also compete in three challenges:

The Robotic Arm Challenge – students will design and build a robotic arm that can grab a space vehicle and dock it with the space shuttle using Lego Mindstorms NXT.
The Space Communication Challenge – students will learn how astronauts communicate in space, by testing their teamwork and communication skills to build several space structures.
The Apollo 13 Challenge – students will recreate the infamous challenge faced during the Apollo 13 mission and patch a filtration system by fitting a square peg in a round hole.
Each aerospace-themed activity is designed to encourage students to explore the nature of flight and experience real-life applications of STEM.

Also during the event, NASA engineers and contractor staff and Canstruction architects will guide students to design and build a replica of the space shuttle made entirely of canned foods. The canned goods are donated to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

Young Astronaut Day sponsors include: NASA’s Glenn Research Center; the Northern Ohio Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Cleveland; and HX5 LLC, Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

Volunteers are: Herschman Architects Canstruction, Cleveland; Cleveland State University AIAA Student Section, Cleveland; Vantage Partners LLC, Lanham, Maryland; Alcyon, Huntsville, Alabama; DB Consulting Group Inc., Silver Spring, Maryland; and CASE Western Reserve University’s Robotics Team, Cleveland.

Media interested in attending should contact Jeannette Owens at 216-433-2990 or jeannette.p.owens@nasa.gov.

For more information about Young Astronaut Day 2017 and a list of participating schools, visit: