'Bill Nye the Science Guy' (Photo : flickr.com)
This week "Bill Nye the Science Guy" hosted a live streaming webcast to announce to the world the winners of a year-long YouTube SpaceLab contest that called on students aged 14-18 to design a science project to be conducted by astronauts in outer space aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
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The contest was a joint collaboration between NASA, YouTube, The European Astronaut Centre (EAC), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Lenovo. Two winning experiments were chosen from thousands of entries submitted by bright young minds around the world. The submissions were judged by a multi-faceted panel of judges including Stephen Hawking, Cirque du Soleil founder GuyLalibert, astronauts Samantha Crisoforette & Koichi Wakata and Frank De Winne, the head of the EAC.
The contest winners included 18-year-old Amr Mohamed from Alexandria, Egypt and a two-person team of 16-year-old girls from Michigan: Dorothy Chen and Sara Ma.
"I like space because unlike any other science, everywhere you look in space there is a new mystery, a new unknown, a new interesting question to inspire one to look for an answer," Mohamed told Nye during the webcast.
Mohamed's experiment was called "Can You Teach an Old Spider New Tricks?" It sought to investigate the effects of microgravity on how the Zebra Spider catches its prey and whether there would be an impact on this activity if performed in outer space.
Chen and Ma's experiment was called "Could Alien Superbugs Cure Disease on Earth?" It sought to investigate whether compounds and nutrients block the growth of bacteria differently in microgravity and whether the results could lead to fighting germs in a more effective manner on Earth.
"It's definitely really surreal to think that our idea, the one that we were brainstorming so many months ago is actually being conducted on the ISS," Ma said during the webcast.
As part of Mohamed's prize for winning the contest he was invited to a training center in Russia for the country's cosmonauts and took part in space-training exercises. The prize awarded to Chen and Ma was an opportunity to tour JAXA and watch the space shuttle with the winning experiments on-board launch into outer space from southern Japan.
"Our hope is that this livestream from space will be the world's largest, coolest scientific classroom," Zahaan Bharmal, Google's SpaceLab founder said in a statement. "Today's SpaceLab winners - as well as the millions of other young minds watching the stream on YouTube - represent tomorrow's space explorers. They may one day walk on Mars!"