Notable Challenges: NASA, LEGOs, and YouTubers
Did you ever say to yourself, "What a brilliant idea! How did they come up with that?"
One school of thought holds that the best "aha" moments take place when someone’s alone—similar to when a young Isaac Newton supposedly decided to take a break and sat down under an apple tree. He got hit on the head by falling fruit, but Isaac was also struck by inspiration and came up with his law of gravity.
However, another theory—shared by organizations such as NASA and LEGO—is that a problem shared is a problem solved.
NASA Solve is a one-stop-shop for prizes, crowdsourcing, and citizen science opportunities to encourage the public to appreciate and participate in NASA’s aerospace programs. The NASA Tournament Lab turns to crowdsourcing to solve specific, real-world challenges in NASA’s space program. The latest is the Astrobee Challenges Series, hosted by NASA via Freelancer.com, where participants can help design the robotic arm for the Astrobee free-flying robot scheduled to replace the SPHERES robot on the International Space Station in 2019. The robot will help astronauts with tasks ranging from housekeeping to spacecraft monitoring and can take direction from NASA’s Mission Control Center at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, as well as perform tasks autonomously.
Other past NASA challenges included designing 3D tools for robotic astronauts and smartwatch mobile applications used for time tracking and station updates. And there are also NASA competitions for students, such as a challenge for high school students to program small satellites to undergraduate and graduate students suggesting designs for the operation of a Mars greenhouse, that encourage and nurture a rising generation of space enthusiasts.
For new product ideas, the iconic toy company LEGO invites fans to submit concepts for new LEGO sets through the LEGO Ideas platform. Voting for favorites is encouraged, and ideas chosen for production can earn the submitter royalties. “Women of NASA,” “The Beatles Yellow Submarine,” and “Doctor Who and Companions” are some LEGO Ideas currently in the product pipeline.
Of course, YouTubers recognize the value of getting others involved to gain followers. To grab viewers, savvy YouTubers have been known to produce multiplayer gaming challenges, such as ScrapMan’s AI Cow Herding Challenge or kAN Gaming’s home run derby challenge to build the best baseball bat to knock the ball out of the park.
As many have found, using challenges and crowdsourcing is a great way to tap into ideas and creativity from a variety of outside sources, as well as to generate enthusiasm. After all, isn’t it more fun to participate than watch from a distance?