Drake State Community & Technical College students research 3D printing

Drake State Community & Technical College students Jaiden Mason (left) and Josh Driskill (right) are members of the Frontiers Research team working with ICON in its cementitious research lab, learning about additive manufacturing materials and processes.

Drake State Community & Technical College has been selected by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center to research 3D printing technologies that will help prepare for sustainable Artemis operations to the moon and to Mars.

Drake State is the first community college and the only historically Black community college to receive a cooperative agreement from Marshall’s Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) since its inception in 2013.

The project aims to develop, deliver and demonstrate on-demand capabilities to protect astronauts and create infrastructure on the lunar surface via construction of landing pads, habitats, shelters, roadways, berms and blast shields using lunar regolith-based materials.

Drake State engineering students, through the Frontiers Research Program, are testing 3D printed concrete structures to help develop construction techniques suitable for building large structures on the moon.

“Being Huntsville’s community college, we’re especially proud to have received this CAN award,” said Patricia Sims, president of Drake State. “We’ve been a part of the Rocket City since 1961. The opportunity to support NASA with our research project is truly exciting.”

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The one-year project is funded through NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Program. The research team is collaborating with ICON, an innovative 3D printing construction company in Texas that is working with NASA on early research and development of a space-based construction system that could support future exploration of the moon and Mars.

“Our team will use 3D printing technology to build concrete structures, conduct destructive and non-destructive testing and collect and analyze data,” said Robert Grissim, director of workforce development at Drake State.

A second goal of the Frontiers Research Program is to develop curriculum for training a new workforce of technicians specialized in 3D construction techniques.

“Our goal is to continue to support the Artemis mission and NASA after our research project is completed,” said Carolyn Henderson, dean of instruction at Drake State. “Training our students to work in space-based construction technology will create a pipeline to a workforce skilled in this highly-specialized field.”

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