Artist's concept of a mechanical rover on Venus

Diagram of maker challenge No. 1


Extended Contest Deadline: March 31, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. (PST)



Target Audience:

Undergraduate and graduate students


UPDATE: 3/6/19 – The challenge deadline has been extended to March 31. See below for details.

We are looking for your ideas on how to make a camera that would operate on Venus! We received some great concepts in the prior round of the challenge, but none met all the requirements. To make the mechanical maker challenge more inclusive, we are opening it up to conceptual ideas. To submit a concept, draw a blueprint of how your mechanical camera would work, and describe it within two pages.

Designs will be judged based on how likely they are to produce a good image, how feasible they are to build, and how capable they are of working in Venus conditions. The prize for the top design is an all-expenses-paid trip to JPL to talk about your design with NASA-JPL engineers and get a behind the scenes look at how we build spacecraft. The top three designs will receive a commemorative 3D printed mechanical maker challenge coin.

Visit to learn more and participate.

With its sulfuric acid clouds, temperatures over 450°C, and 92 times the surface pressure of Earth, Venus is one of the most hostile planetary environments in the solar system. Prior missions have only survived hours! But an automaton (or clockwork mechanical robot) could solve this problem. By utilizing high-temperature alloys, the clockwork rover would survive for months, allowing it to collect and return valuable long-term science data from the surface of Venus. Learn more about the automaton rover, here.

At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, we are turning this innovative concept into reality under a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts funded study. We’ve been working hard on this project, but we could use YOUR help to address some of our toughest mechanical design challenges! The Mechanical Maker Challenges are a series of challenges seeking to engage your creativity to invent mechanical ways of performing traditionally electrical tasks. Challenges will be released in series, one at a time.

First up: Create a clockwork mechanical camera for Venus. Are you up for the challenge?

Visit to learn more and participate. Stay tuned for details on the next challenges in the series, to be announced on April 30 and July 8, 2019.

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