Success at the National Science Foundation 2026 Ideas Machine contest
Dr Juan Pablo Gevaudan’s entry to the National Science Foundation’s 2026 Idea Machine Competition was selected as one of only seven winners.
The NSF received more than 800 proposals for the competition, in which teams from all walks of life submit their visions for fundamental, impactful research. The program is designed to help shape national research priorities in the coming years.
This NSF 2026 Big Idea, Unlocking the Future of Infrastructure, envisions the development of space infrastructure through the creation of sustainable, recyclable, adaptable, and multi-functional materials.
It brings recent advances in computer vision, automated construction, circular economy and bio-inspired engineering to address resource scarcity and infrastructure needs in Mars. Far beyond proposing infrastructure in extraterrestrial bodies (i.e., Mars), the proposed Big Idea highlights the need for novel infrastructure-related research within a resource-scarcity context.
Dr Juan Pablo Gevaudan explains, “in only two years, we expect to see the first global sand shortages; an integral component of the most utilized construction material in the world – concrete.
“Thus, research that addresses these limitations is critical for our society to meet future grand challenges, such as urbanization and global climate change. This big idea shatters current paradigms of construction and presents forth a new one of ‘resource-independent infrastructure’.”
It is an honour to have a national platform to envision a new scientific paradigm of resource-independent infrastructure to inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists.
“It is an honour to have a national platform to envision a new scientific paradigm of resource-independent infrastructure to inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists,” said Guedavan, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow in the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Leeds and an affiliate faculty member at Penn State University. Dr Juan Pablo Gevaudan won the competition's Meritorious Prize with colleague Chelsea Heveran, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in Montana State University.
In order to support the exploration of this NSF big idea, it has created two funding schemes.
Dr Gevaudan continues “my research group at Penn State (the responsive and adaptive infrastructure materials- Re-AIM laboratory) will leverage these funding schemes to begin exploring the development of novel materials produced from local resources and capable of adapting to extreme environments.”
Image credit: Bill Petros Photography
Montana State University published an article on this topic.