A University of Colorado Boulder space center will play a key role in a new international contest being sponsored by YouTube, Lenovo, Space Adventures and several space agencies that challenges 14- to 18-year-old students to design science experiments, with the winning entries to be conducted in space.
Two winners chosen from student entries will see their experiments performed on the International Space Station, or ISS. BioServe Space Technologies, headquartered in CU-Boulder's aerospace engineering sciences department, will be responsible for turning the winning proposals into flight-ready experiments that can be launched safely and conducted on board ISS, said Stefanie Countryman, BioServe's business manager and outreach coordinator.
All experiments submitted to the contest must involve either biology or physics. The panel of judges includes British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, two NASA administrators, European Space Agency and Japanese Space Agency astronauts, and Cirque de Soleil founder Guy Laliberte.
As part of the contest, 14- to 18-year-olds, either alone or in groups of up to three, can submit videos describing their experiments to YouTube. Six regional finalists will gather in the United States in March 2012 for a chance to experience a zero gravity flight aboard a modified NASA jet and to receive other prizes.
In addition to having their experiments undertaken on ISS, the two global winners -- one from the 14-16 age group and one from the 17-18 age group -- also will have the option of visiting a Russian facility for an authentic space training experience or a trip to Japan to see the rocket carrying their experiments launched into space. The deadline for entries is Dec. 7.
"For decades, one of our major thrusts at CU-Boulder's BioServe Space Technologies has been to provide educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of K-12 students around the world," said Countryman. "This is yet another opportunity for us to work with students on space payloads, and a unique project that we hope will help steer many students from around the world into careers in the sciences."
For the biological experiments, BioServe is providing four small space flight habitats from which contestants can choose to house their experiment. Once launched, the habitat will carry the winning biological experiment to the ISS where it will be placed inside a BioServe-built device known as a Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus. The suitcase-sized CGBA will provide thermal control and imaging capabilities for the winning YouTube contest experiments, said Countryman.
For the winning physics experiment, BioServe will design it so that it can be safely conducted by an astronaut aboard ISS. "On this project, BioServe is responsible for completing all of the mission integration and operations work, including adhering to NASA's safety processes and training the astronaut crew on how to operate the instruments and hardware," said Countryman.
The global initiative sponsoring the contest is a new program known as YouTube Space Lab. YouTube Space Lab is one component of YouTube for Schools, a program that allows educators to access YouTube's broad library of educational content from inside their school network.
BioServe is a nonprofit, NASA-funded center founded in 1987 at CU-Boulder to develop new or improved products through space life science research in partnership with industry, academia and government, said BioServe Director Louis Stodieck. Since 1991 BioServe has flown payloads on 39 NASA space shuttle microgravity missions and additional payloads on several Russian space vehicles.
YouTube, a video-sharing website, is a subsidiary of Google. Lenovo, a global company headquartered in Morrisville, N.C., is the world's third-largest PC maker. Space Adventures, headquartered in Vienna, Va., provides flights for private citizens into space, including trips to the ISS.