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YouTube Space Lab to put students’ work into orbit

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Update: YouTube entries are due on Dec. 7; the deadline was listed incorrectly on the competition’s Web site.

Your idea, in space. That’s the main thrust behind a new contest from YouTube and Lenovo that offers a grand prize like no other: winners will see their experiments performed live on the International Space Station.

The YouTube SpaceLab project, which launched this week, is a new one-of-a-kind competition for high school students aimed at getting teenagers more interested in science. Students ages 14 to 18 can submit their experiments on biology and physics to the contest to an all-star panel of judges including world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking. Other judges include NASA administrators William Gerstenmaier and Leland Melvin, European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihito Hoshide and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte. Zahaan Bharmal, Google’s head of marketing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said all of the judges were excited to participate in the contest and motivate the next generation of scientists.

Students may submit experiments individually or in groups of up to three young scientists. Six regional winners will win a trip to Washington, D.C. and will get to experience a zero-gravity flight.

Two global winners — one from the 14-16 age group and one from the 17-18 age group — will have their experiments conducted on the International Space Station and livestreamed over YouTube. The winners also will be given the option to either fly to Japan to see the shuttle containing their experiment launched into space or given a chance to train at Star City, the Russian training camp for astronauts.

The experiment video applications are due to YouTube by Dec. 13 Dec. 7, and the contest requires parental permission to enter.

The contest is thanks in large part to Bharmal, who has had keen interest in space for years. He said that launching this contest is the “realization of a long-time dream.”

“Space changed my life,” Bharmal said. “When I was teenager I wasn’t interested in anything. Being interested in space motivated me to study hard and work hard.” Bharmal later went on to study physics at Oxford University before joining Google and has been a vocal proponent of teaching young people about space.

“If our competition can just play a small part in getting kids interested in science, then we’ll be very, very happy,” Bharmal said. “My vision is the final live stream will be the world’s largest science classroom.”

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