New site invites STEM students to tackle Air Force challenges

Part crowdsourcing platform, part recruiting tool, part STEM education showcase, the Air Force recently launched its “Collaboratory”  — an interactive platform that invites technology-minded people to submit solutions to real-world Air Force problems.

The site particularly targets students studying the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), offering video game-like achievement badges in exchange for greater levels of participation. Air Force specialists will moderate and provide feedback through the online platform, and the Air Force says the best solutions will be pushed through to rapid prototyping and possibly launched in the field.

Three technology challenges are planned for 2013. The first, dubbed “Search and Rescue 2.0,” launched Aug. 1 and will remain open through the end of September. It focuses on ways to locate, stabilize or transport victims trapped in collapsed structures during “The Golden Hour,” or the first hour after a natural disaster strikes. Given the nature of the problem, many of the early ideas generated are robotic in nature.

The next project, an unmanned systems-related challenge, is called “Mind of a Quadrotor.” It opens in September and will focus on developing a system to allow a quadrotor to navigate with minimal human interaction.

Finally, in October, “The Launch of GPS IIF” will ask participants to determine the most effective location within the GPS satellite constellation to launch the Air Force’s newest GPS satellite.

Regardless of what ideas come out of the process, the Air Force hopes the site will help promote the Air Force as a viable career option for young people interested in science and technology while emphasizing the importance of STEM education. It is partnered on the project with GOOD magazine, an online community and quarterly publication dedicated to helping people collaboratively engage with one another.

You can visit the site by clicking here.

[ image courtesy of The Air Force Collaboratory ]