A new competition from YouTube is helping to promote science education and bring students closer to outer space. YouTube Space Lab, which launches this week, is an international competition for high school students to design the best science experiment that can be performed in space.
As part of its larger education program, YouTube is challenging 14 to 18 year old students, alone or in groups of up to three, to submit a two-minute video now through December 7 describing their experiment.
According to a press release, two winners will be selected to have their experiment performed on the International Space Station next year.
Classrooms around the world will be able to watch a live stream on YouTube as the experiments are performed in space.
Google's Zahaan Bharmal, who developed the idea for the Space Lab, told HuffPost that the live stream will be big for both students and YouTube.
With millions of kids watching, he says, "We're hoping that this live stream is going to be the world's largest and coolest scientific classroom ever."
YouTube users will be able to vote on the best experiments, but the final decision will be made by a "prestigious panel of scientists, astronauts, and educators," which includes Stephen Hawking, astronauts and senior administrators from three space agencies, Guy Laliberté, the founder of Cirque du Soleil, and explorer Bertrand Piccard.
Bharmal explained how the winners will be choosen. He said, primarily the judges will be looking to see how well the entrants follow the scientific method. Since the students are creating YouTube videos, they will also be looking at how creatively they explain and communicate their idea.
Experiments must be in either the biological or physical sciences. Bharmal said, "We want it to be as broad as possible, to really encourage kids to be creative and think big, dream big, about the different range of experiments."
In addition to getting to watch their experiment performed live in space, the winners will receive a number of prizes, including a laptop, a ZERO-G flight and a trip to either Japan or Russia.
Bharmal said the competition's partners were eager to become a part of Space Lab. He added, "All these partners share the same vision, which is the power of space to inspire young minds."
He explained that YouTube hopes educators will also get on board with the competiton. He said there will be suggested lesson plans and other "dedicated resources for teachers who want to incorporate YouTube Space Lab into their classroom."
After a failed launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket in August, there will be no launches to the International Space Station until at least November. Astronauts and ground crews have been making plans to keep the space station running if it has to be evacuated.
China recently launched its first space lab as part of a future manned space station. The space station, which the Chinese plan to build by 2020, may "further cement China's position as a serious player in space exploration."
For more information about the high school competition, check out YouTube Space Lab's website.