While NASA routinely recruits the best and brightest the US has to offer, that hasn’t stopped from looking beyond the echo chamber of scientific consensus for outside the box approaches to various problems. One program, “Cubes in Space” seeks out students aged 11-18 to compete in a satellite design competition. This year’s winner, 18 year old Rifath Shaarook from India designed a micro-satellite weighing just 64 grams. He was one of a number of contestants from all over the world who competed in the annual event to seek out new and innovative approaches to technological questions.
NASA will launch the tiny satellite into space from its Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The teen will be among an elite class of individuals that have through their own innovation put an object into space.
NASA’s efforts to reach out to the public do not just center around students. It’s part of a policy of outreach that solicits ideas from individuals and companies all across America. The idea seems to be, that having access to ideas no matter how scientifically non-rigorous is a good way to look at problems from different angles, and even those ideas that don’t make the cut force scientists to consider the issue differently which can itself lead to a new innovation.
For students like Rifath Shaarook, this is an exciting opportunity that no doubt will look fantastic on his CV.
“We designed it completely from scratch,” the young engineering genius from India said, “It will have a new kind of on-board computer and eight indigenous built-in sensors to measure acceleration, rotation, and the magnetosphere of Earth.”
And all of that is nestled within a tiny cube that fits snugly in the palm of your hand. With payoffs like these NASA seems set to fund the project into the foreseeable future.