About TSGC










Dr. Tim Urban

voice: 512-471-0967
fax: 512-471-3585

3925 West Braker Lane, Suite 200
Austin, Texas 78759

toll-free switchboard:


Talia Jurgens

voice: 512-471-8271
fax: 512-471-3585

3925 West Braker Lane, Suite 200
Austin, Texas 78759

toll-free switchboard:




Competition Is participating in the Design Challenge a competitive process? If so, how do we make sure our team is selected. No, selection to participate in the Design Challenge is not competitive. Teams are "selected" to participate on a first-come/first-served basis. You can improve your chances for "getting a spot" by completing the required Design Brief completely and submitting it as early possible. Aside from that, selection may be "weighted" when more teams apply than the program has room to host. Factors impacting selection may include: topic choices, number of teams from the same institution, previous performance of teams/support of faculty from particular institutions.
I understand some teams receive awards at the end of the semester - - doesn't that mean it's a competition to see who wins? Judges at the Showcase rank team submissions in Best Poster, Best Model and Best Oral Presentation categories. Teams may also be acknowledged for any area of participation in which they've shown a high degree of creativity, uniqueness or excellence including: Outreach Activities, Website design, Team Patch. In Fall 07 a competitive Top Design Team scholarship prize was created and has been awarded each semester since to the team deemed "best overall."
Continuing a Previous Team's Project Our team wants to work on a project started by another Design Challenge team during a previous semester. Is that allowed? Absolutely. In fact, it's encouraged. Talk to your faculty advisor about your interest in following-up on a previous team's work. Contact the original team to advise them that work is continuing [or I'll do this for you] and be sure to reference their work. Perhaps they'll offer to collaborate further with you.
Second Semester Projects We are beginning a project that will last two semesters? Do we still have to submit a Design Brief when the second semester begins? Yes. Teams continuing a project into the second semester will begin the process in the same way a first-semester team does; but also noting updates or changes to the team configuration or design goal.
Deadlines How long, after the Showcase presentations, does the team have to get all of the deliverables submitted in order to receive the award? Final submission dates for each semester are listed in the Design Challenge Timetable and Deadlines for each semester - - but in general, teams have about two weeks after the end of the semester to get final deliverables turned in. If a team needs more time, they can let me know.
Team Members Are there any restrictions on participation by non-US citizens? Any student, regardless of national origin, is welcome to participate in the Design Challenge; however, certain restrictions may apply:
  • Non-U.S. citizens may not receive TSGC / NASA scholarships.
  • NASA facilities currently impose visitor restrictions based on citizenship - so a non-citizen team member will probably not be allowed to accompany the team for a site visit.
  • The topic sponsor may have citizenship restrictions that apply when providing the team with proprietary design information.

If a team has a member who is not a citizen of the United States, contact me and we'll discuss any potential restrictions that might apply on a case-by-case basis.

Use of Funds The website talks about "team earnings." Does this mean that the team gets to keep any of the funds that are leftover after the project ends. There is limited opportunity for student teams to actually work on "funded" projects during their undergraduate career. It's even more rare for teams to be allocated a budget for travel to make site visits/field trips and attend formal conferences. The Design Challenge offers opportunities for teams to earn "project funds, " "travel funds," and "scholarship funds." Project funds are accumulated as teams successfully completes each milestone (Levels & Option Areas) ; an automatic travel allowance in included that provides for reimbursement for project related travel up to $500. Scholarship funds are dollars that the team members may personally receive; these funds are not restricted to project-only use. Opportunities to earn Scholarship Funding is embedded into Option Area completion, Showcase Award recognitions and the Top Design Team prize.

Our design team would like to organize an end-of-semester social to celebrate the conclusion of the design effort and invite our families to come and see our work. Is this an allowable expense? Sure. Talk to your faculty advisor about setting up such a celebration. This is often a good way to include other teams that may not have had an opportunity to receive funding for their projects.
Would purchasing a display case for our project be an allowable expense? Yes. Leftover funds can be used at the discretion of the team's faculty advisor for a number of things including making purchases that benefit the course. Some have purchased software, a digital camera, shop equipment etc.
Option Areas Outreach and Website Design seems like a lot of extra work - - what does the team gain from taking on the extra load? Option Area participation benefits the team members in a number of ways: [1] it expands and widens the team's base of experience; [2] provides an avenue for earning additional project funds; and [3] may translate into scholarship dollars if the area is deemed excellent or you take advantage of the opportunity for the Option Area Match of a $400 Scholarship by complete all three areas.
Limit on Number of Teams What is the number of teams that any one institution may involve in the Challenge? The rules say: maximum two teams, per institution, per semester. However, more than two teams from the same institution may participate if an adequate number of topics exist and each team chooses to work on a different project. Space and funding to host additional teams also is a factor.
Travel Funds Our team used a portion of our travel allowance to make a site-visit. Now it looks like we may not have enough to support team travel to the Showcase. May we use funds that we've earned for Level & Option Area completion to make up the difference. Yes, with your faculty advisors approval. In the end, it's all one account. A good plan budget may help to prevent over spending in the future.
Our team only used a small portion of the Travel Grant for travel - - but we could certainly use a little extra to apply toward construction of our model. Can we use the extra money for fabrication? Yes. The team can take advantage of budgeting travel by using any additional funds to support project development.
Travel Reimbursement We're confused about how we will be reimbursed for travel. Does the check come from TSGC or from our institution? Your Institution must comply with State of Texas regulations regarding the travel of its students and employees; therefore, you MUST submit a "Travel Request" through your department (talk to the people in your department office about this). In that request, you will estimate the amount of money you need to travel. That provides the office with enough info to decide if the funds you have available will be enough to cover your expenses.

You will have to pay for travel out of your own pocket, so be sure to keep ALL receipts. Once your travel is completed, you will submit a "Request for Rebursement" to the office. This will detail what your travel actually cost. You will provide proof by providing receipts for hotel, food, parking etc that were necessary during your trip. If you dive your own vehicle, you can also claim "per diem" based on the mileage you drive. The will provide the information necessary for your department to reimburse you.

TSGC's role is to provide your department with the $500 allowance for travel - so that they will have that amount available for your use.

So - Department reimburses you; TSGC reimburses the department.

Showcase The team has decided that it may need to skip the Showcase in order to take care of some other course-related needs - - will that be a problem? Yes it will definitely be a problem. Attendance by at least half of the team is required in order to consider your participation as "completed" and qualify you for the Level III incentive. If you do not attend you will forfeit that portion of your funding.
Is it okay if the team videotapes the presentations? Oh sure.
Should the team use a private vehicle for transportation to the Showcase? The travel allowance available via the Travel Grant will allow the team to drive a private car or rent a car for travel to the Showcase. If you're driving your own car, you will be paid mileage at the state rate. If you are interested in renting a car, talk to your faculty advisor about which rental car companies are recommended by your institution. The rental agency will require a credit card to secure the rental, and some rental agencies require a driver to be 25 or older, so be sure to ask about driver-age restrictions when making your reservation.
May we invite family to attend the Showcase and see our presentation? Yes. Family and friends over the age of twelve may attend when space permits. For seating and catering purposes, just provide us with an estimate of how many people to expect. Please note that because TSGC pays for the Showcase based upon headcount, the number of guests per team may be limited should the overall number of attendees reach the maximum budgeted for.
What is the attire for the Showcase? Team "Meet and Greet Dinner:" Casual to Business Casual.
Showcase Presentations: Business casual.
JSC Tours: Casual; comfortable closed-toe shoes.
We have a large team, and the conference hotel will cost us more than we've budgeted for - - are we allowed to stay at another cheaper hotel. Absolutely. Talk to me about which hotels are recommended. There are several in the area that offer good rates and provide free breakfast.