Aditi Bhattamishra, 12, didn’t play with dolls as a child, but she never passed blocks or Legos without building something — and there were plenty of those at her disposal.

That drive to build was so strong that her mom remembers a 3-year-old Aditi putting wheels on an empty Granola box to make it a car.

Now, it’s clear all that play building paid off in more than creating fun.

The sixth-grader at Race Brook School was recently selected as a finalist in the junior category of a NASA and American Society of Mechanical Engineers supported, “Two for the Crew” Future Engineers challenge.

She is the only finalist from Connecticut.

“It’s a big thing for me,” said Aditi, who said she thought when registering for the conference, “This is interesting. Can I do it?”

The challenge issued by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation, with technical assistance from NASA. called upon students to design 3D models of space tools, medical hardware and sustainable food solutions.

Aditi designed a Stud-C-Clamp on the computer a smaller, more efficient clamp to hold items in place. She combined four items to create the clamp to be used in restraint and mobility in space.

Components of her project included a special stud to hold items together and a flex bracket. Aditi said the clamps hold onto rails and other surfaces to hold items such as experiments in place in space.

There are four finalists in each of two age groups, junior and teen. Aditi is in the junior group for ages 5-12.

As a finalist, MakerBot will award a Replicator Mini+ 3D printer to the school, library or education organization of Aditi’s choice, states a press release from the organization.

She will also progress to the final stage of the competition, which involves presenting her 3D design to an expert panel of judges, including NASA’s In Space Manufacturing Project Manager, Niki Werkheiser.

“These students are helping to shape the future of space exploration and I’m excited for them to get direct feedback from NASA experts like Niki,” Deanne Bell, CEO and founder of Future Engineers stated in a press release.

Aditi said the “most challenging” part were the measurements and making it all fit.

Aditi’s dad, Ranjan Kumar Mishra, is a robotics engineer, but he said it was his daughter who has taught him a lot, including how to build with Legos. She created a Lego robot in third-grade.

Dad said he often gets ideas from his Aditi because children are naturals at “thinking out of the box.”

“This is good exposure for her,” he said. “She will know what’s really, really required fundamentally.”

Aditi’s mom, Joses Jamini, a writer and formerly a journalist in India, said, smiling, that her daughter didn’t get and building or technology giftedness from her, but she contributed by introducing toys to fill Aditi’s desire to build.

Aditi’s parents both said their daughter, born in India and living in the United States since age 5 is self-driven.

“All the credit goes to her,” mom said, referring to Aditi. “Nobody knows what she’ll be doing next.”

Aditi, an honor student and accomplished artist, said she has no intention of becoming an engineer, but whatever she ends up doing, she knows it will involve building.

“I like that I have the power to put something together with my fingers,” Aditi said. “I can take it apart,” and make it different.

The winners in each category will be announced March 14 and both the teen and junior winners will receive a trip to Washington D.C. to learn about space exploration.