Students at North Dakota State University in Fargo are working with NASA scientists to develop a better technique for 3D printing in space exploration.

Students at North Dakota State University in Fargo are working with NASA scientists to develop a better technique for 3D printing in space exploration.

The 11 students working with a NASA field center in California called Jet Propulsion Laboratory range from freshmen to graduate students, the Wahpeton Daily News reported. They're pursuing majors in mechanical engineering, computer science and electrical engineering.

"It's a long-term research project," said Dr. Jeremy Straub, an assistant professor at NDSU. "We're going to have many technical milestones before what we're doing will ever find its ultimate use.

In the short term, we'll try to print some objects and test to make sure what we're doing works."

The students are working on developing a software algorithm, which will reduce the number of support structures required to fill an object. They're still several years from having even a demonstration ready of their improved printing process.

The students meet once a week with the lab's staff through videoconferencing.

Straub said having students assist in resolving actual problems NASA faces is inspirational.

"For many of the students, who grew up watching science fiction and dreaming of the stars, working with NASA seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Straub said. "For some this initial taste of space exploration may translate into a career goal."