Penn State work featured in upcoming long-term Franklin Institute space exhibit

Penn State NASA Mars Challenge team standing together in front of full-size 3d-printed concrete dwellings holding Penn State flag
Penn State NASA Mars Challenge team standing together in front of full-size 3d-printed concrete dwellings holding Penn State flag

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A video that highlights the work a Penn State team is doing to 3D print houses that can sustain life on Mars is featured in a new $8.5 million core exhibit opening Nov. 4 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

“Wondrous Space” is a two-story, 7,500-square-foot long-term exhibit that will highlight the diversity of science and technology in the space industry, emphasizing the achievements, innovations and people who “work to bring science fiction to life,” according to a press release issued by the Franklin Institute.

Co-led by José Pinto Duarte, Stuckeman Chair in Design Innovation and Stuckeman Center for Design Computing director, and Shadi Nazarian, former associate research professor of architecture at Penn State who is now the H. Ralph Hawkins, FAIA, Chair in Architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington's College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs, the interdisciplinary Penn State Den@Mars research team was originally established to compete in NASA's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, a Centennial Challenges competition. Sven Bilén, professor of engineering design, electrical engineering and aerospace engineering, Ali Memari, professor of civil engineering and Bernard and Henrietta Hankin Chair in Residential Building Construction, and Aleksandra Radlińska, associate professor of civil engineering, from the College of Engineering, along with Randall Bock, assistant research professor of agricultural and biological engineering, from the College of Agricultural Sciences, have also made significant contributions to the team.

Featuring faculty and student researchers from the three colleges, Penn State Den@Mars generated $465,000 in prize money from the competition. The group formed the Additive Construction Lab (AddConLab) to continue their work pushing to create sustainable housing options that could revolutionize the construction industry and address larger societal issues such as homelessness.

The video used in the “Wondrous Space” was produced by WPSU to document the successes the Penn State Den@Mars team experienced in the NASA competition.

"It's great that the work the AddConLab is doing will be featured in such a prominent science education and research museum in Philadelphia. It will help to increase exposure and awareness of the lab's work to the people who visit this premier science and development museum,” said Duarte. “It can also help garner support for applying the technology developed in the laboratory to overcoming housing shortage crises on Earth.”

Backed by a $3 million gift from The Boeing Company, “Wondrous Space” is located between the Fels Planetarium and the Holt & Miller Observatory in the Franklin Institute. The exhibit features interactive displays, immersive simulations and a focus on future advancements in space exploration.

Located in the heart of Philadelphia, the Franklin Institute is as one of the leading science centers in the United States and reaches more than 1 million people each year with informal learning experiences that engage students, adults and families.

Schools and Departments: Department of Architecture, Department of Landscape Architecture, Stuckeman School
Event Sponsors: Stuckeman School, Stuckeman Center for Design Computing