YouTube and Lenovo have joined forces to launch a global initiative that challenges youngsters to design a science experiment which can be performed in space. Two winning entries chosen by a panel of scientists, astronauts and educators - including A Brief History of Time author professor Stephen Hawking - will have their experiments conducted by astronauts aboard the International Space Station and live streamed on YouTube for the world to see.

The YouTube Space Lab competition is now open to 14 to 18 year-old students around the globe, who are being asked to submit a two minute YouTube video outlining their experimental proposal to the Space Lab video channel. Each video presentation must include the scientific question that the entrant wants answered, an educated guess at what that answer might be, an outline of the method used to conduct the experiment and the expected results. Entries can be individual or team efforts, but the latter are restricted to groups of three.

Three years of planning

The idea for the challenge came from a Google brainstorming session three years ago. To help make it a reality, YouTube and Lenovo have partnered with private space exploration company
Space Adventures, and space agencies including NASA, the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Students have until December 7, 2011 to get their proposals uploaded, after which the judges will deliberate before announcing six regional finalists. These lucky youngsters will gather in Washington, D.C. next March, where they will be treated to a Lenovo IdeaPad laptop, experience a Zero-G flight and awarded other prizes. One winner from the 14-16 age group and another from ages 17-18 will then get the chance to have their experiments undertaken 250 miles above the Earth.

Global winners will also get to choose a once-in-a-lifetime space experience as a prize. The lucky students can either take a tour of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency facilities and then watch their experiment blast off from Tanegashima Island, Japan, in a rocket bound for the International Space Station some time during the northern summer of 2012, or receive astronaut training (upon reaching the age of 18) at the training center for Russian cosmonauts in Star City, Russia.

Limited edition tablet released

Lenovo is tying the competition in with the launch of a new limited edition
Space Lab Edition ThinkPad Tablet bundle. The device features a 10.1-inch, 1280 x 800 pixel resolution display with Corning Gorilla Glass, is powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor running at 1GHz supported by 1GB of low power DDR2 RAM and has 32GB of storage, with SD card expansion.

The tablet sports both HDMI and USB ports, is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled and runs on Android 3.1. It will also come pre-loaded with space-themed apps like Google Sky Map, Thinking Space, and NASA for Android. Buyers will also get a special International Space Station mission badge, Space Lab sticker, sling bag and some Sony noise-canceling headphones.

Google's Head of Marketing Operations Zahaan Bharmal, who originally came up with the idea for the competition, gives some background information and outlines some of the challenge rules in the following video:

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