Frequently Asked Questions

Two Q&A Sessions were scheduled for the 2023 Competition:
Session #1: November 3, 2022 | 3:30 – 5:00 PM ET (Virtual)
Session #2: January 26, 2023 | 3:30 – 4:30 PM ET (Virtual)

** Questions for Q&A Session #1 will be accepted in advance. Submit questions by clicking the button below.
Review the FAQs below prior to submitting to see if your question is answered on this page.

2023 Blue Skies Q&A #1 Session:

Q&A Session #1 for the 2023 Competition was held on November 3, 2022 for teams who submitted a Notice of Intent prior to the event.

Please click on the buttons below to review files from the Blue Skies Q&A Session #1.
(Slides do not include questions asked on call. For questions asked on call, please view the Summary Document below.)

2023 Blue Skies Q&A #2 Session:

Q&A Session #2 for the 2023 Competition was held on January 26, 2023 for teams who submitted a Notice of Intent prior to the event.

Please click on the buttons below to review files from the Blue Skies Q&A Session #2.


Foreign students and foreign universities are not eligible to participate in this challenge.

Lawful permanent residents (i.e., green card holders) may participate in the competition, but due to NASA policy, would be not be eligible to receive the competition prize (NASA internships).

The Gateways to Blue Skies Competition is a student-led initiative. Faculty advisors should serve as mentors, allowing students to do the bulk of the work on Blue Skies projects. Faculty advisors must physically sign off on proposal and final research paper submissions on behalf of the team.

For teams awarded as finalists, faculty advisors will further be responsible for ensuring that their team gets adequate access to the university resources and labs they need to successfully complete their project as proposed.  Additionally, they’ll be responsible for managing the funds sent to the university on behalf of the challenge, and assisting teams to participate fully in the culminating Forum.

As long as the advisor is employed by the university  to teach a class and/or perform research, and either a U.S. Citizen or a lawful permanent resident, they qualify as a faculty advisor.

The W9/Vendor Form must be filled out by the university.  Typically, it is done through the university finance department. Your advisor should be able to help you navigate conversations with the university to ensure the W9 is filled correctly, by the appropriate personnel.

NOTE: A completed IRS Form W9 is an acceptable substitution.

A panel of NASA and industry experts will evaluate and score the competition components.

Yes, as long as they were students during the Fall semester when you begin working on the project. 

No. The university must fill out the W9/Vendor Form, as we are only able to issue stipend checks directly to universities (not to individual student organizations).

It is the responsibility of each team to appropriately handle copyright issues related to anything you choose to use in your presentation (including, but not limited to: music, images, graphics, and photos). Neither NASA nor NIA can grant permission for you to use copyrighted material.

You can absolutely submit your research as an abstract to other conferences, as long as it is presented to the public at the Blue Skies Forum first.

It’s also OK to present the work at your university (to other students/faculty/internal school events) before the Blue Skies Forum.

Various vehicle types, fuels, and technologies come with their own safety concerns which should be considered when researching and analyzing your project.

No. The only visual requirement is a digital infographic, which is specific to finalists. Similarly, there is no requirement for a model or virtual model for the finalist teams’ presentations.

Although it’s not required, teams may incorporate a model or virtual model into any of their submissions, if it is on a platform that is accessible to all of the judges (i.e., please do not use any non-standard software that the majority of the public doesn’t have access to).

Refer to the Competition Guidelines for more information on this question.

Finalist teams will print their infographic to display at the Blue Skies Forum as their poster.

It is up to each team to determine the best way of displaying their concept via an Infographic, which is a visual depiction of the final research paper concepts.

  • Utilizing visual elements, the infographic should be easily understood by audiences from non-technical backgrounds.
  • The infographic should incorporate a blend of both visual and textual information (with more emphasis on the visual aspect).
  • The infographic should reflect only the information discussed in the final research paper (i.e., it should NOT be used to add additional information that didn’t fit within the 8-10 page final research paper page limit).
  • The infographic should convey research study elements in a visually compelling manner, demonstrating that attention was given to the use of color and artistic creativity, as well as the organizational flow of information.

      Any civil servant who is currently working for and getting paid for that work by the federal government. This includes Pathways Interns or other federal co-op students.  It does not include Pathways Interns or other federal co-op students who are in an INACTIVE and UNPAID portion of their co-op (i.e., if they are not currently working as a paid federal co-op this semester, then they can participate in the Blue Skies competition this semester). 

      Because finalist teams receive stipends to support full participation in the Forum, this eligibility constraint has been implemented to avoid double sources of federal income going to any finalist team member who may also be receiving other payment from the government for similar work.

      Yes. Federal work study through, say, a Pell program or through FAFSA does not preclude you from participating in the competition.

      It’s up to each team to allot appropriate space to describe and justify their 2050s aviation/energy landscape. Because each team will focus on different aspects of that landscape, space allocation will be different for each team. A good rule of thumb is to provide enough information to justify your vision for the 2050s landscape, but allocate more of your available space to your team’s response to that vision.

      There is no preference in citation formatting, but references must be formatted uniformly and correctly. Just linking sources is not acceptable.

      The Cover Page, Abstract, and Appendices, which can be used for references, are not included in the 5-7 page limit. The 5-7 pages are for the body of the technical paper. See the Competition Guidelines for more details.

      Use appendices for citations and references only. Judges are not required to review material included in your appendices. As such, be sure no information vital to your design concept or its justification is included in the appendices. You may include citations, calculations or other information you think judges may find interesting, but be sure it’s not integral to your project before putting it in an appendix.

      Yes and No. Teams must conduct research on the types of future aviation markets, airplane designs, fuels, etc. that are being discussed, considered, or have potential. Make some assumptions (based on this research) about the 2050s landscape to inform your project.

      Yes, if the team size limit of 6 total members is not exceeded.

      Yes. However, submitting an NOI form at your earliest convenience is in your best interest.  Once we have contact information for the team lead and faculty advisor, we can ensure you are kept updated on any changes or provide you with helpful resources. Submitting an NOI also benefits NASA: it helps us know how many technical papers to expect so that we have the appropriate number of reviewers lined up to judge the submissions.

      Start asking professors if they are willing to serve as your team’s advisor. Each team MUST have an eligible U.S. Citizen/LPR faculty advisor listed at the time of the Proposal Submission.

      Role of Faculty Advisor: Faculty advisors take on the role as mentors, and if a team is selected as a finalist, help manage any monetary awards sent to the university, ensuring they are disbursed appropriately (according to your university’s protocols) to enable the team’s full participation in the culminating Blue Skies Forum in June. The student team leader and advisor will also jointly receive email updates and reminders about the competition to distribute to the rest of the team.

      Yes. The primary advisor must be from your university and be able to handle financial awards on behalf of your team, according to university protocols. However, teams may also have additional faculty serve as mentors from other universities.

      A faculty advisor may be a lawful permanent resident (i.e., Green Card holder). If they are a U.S. Citizen or a lawful permanent resident, we are allowed to send funds to the university on their behalf.

      Yes. Upon selection, all finalist teams will be provided with specific directions for applying to the Blue Skies internships.

      There are no specific locations for the NASA internships. They may be located across the country at a variety of NASA centers, depending on factors that will be determined with finalist and winning teams later in the competition.

      Internships will be input into the NASA NIFS internship database once finalists are selected. They will be titled or otherwise denoted as “Blue Skies Finalists Only.” These will be internships for which finalists may apply, and finalists will receive specific directions on how to do so. Once the Blue Skies Forum takes place and the six winners are announced, we will work with the winners to determine strengths and interests and link them with opportunities at the NASA Centers to create a good match.

      If a winning team has six members that are all interested and eligible for the NASA internship, all six would receive invitations to intern. However, if the winning team doesn’t have six members, there may be an opportunity to open more internship slots to members of other finalist teams. Allotments will be determined at program management discretion toward the end of the competition timeline.

      A team member who has a GPA lower than 3.0 may participate in the Blue Skies Competition. There is no GPA requirement for the competition itself. The 3.0 GPA requirement is for NASA internships only: An applicant must have a 3.0 or higher to be eligible – there are no exceptions to this rule for NASA internships.

      Yes, if student is enrolled in the team’s college/university. Participants under age 18 at the time of the Forum must be accompanied by a parent/guardian. Individuals under 18 years may not be eligible for the competition prize (NASA internship).

      Up to eight finalist teams will be selected following the Proposal and Video submission. The judging panel may select fewer teams, depending on the quality of proposals. Selected teams will be invited to produce a final research paper and infographic, and to participate in the Blue Skies Forum in June.

      Teams are welcome to make any choices that they believe are justifiable, if good rationale is provided.