|Credit: Top Coder|
It would seem that the International Space Station (ISS) is designed with solar panels that have to be positioned in a specific way as to minimize casting shadows upon itself. When too many of the support beams fall into shadows, they can bend and break thereby damaging the solar panels. Currently, the panels are positioned in a way that reduces their own effectiveness at collecting energy but that is less conducive to breakage.
Here's where you space and math nerds come in: NASA is hosting a contest to have you devise algorithms to determine the optimal positioning to balance maximum energy collection and minimize the risk of damage. If you come up with the winning algorithm, you could win $10,000 and of course bucketloads of geek cred (way more valuable). The video below provides an overview of the design problem and the challenge itself. For the rest of you non-space geeks, don't worry: it's in English (not science speak).
If you're interested in getting involved, you can get a lot more detailed information about the challenge on the Top Coder ISS Challenge site. Way to crowdsource a solution!
FYI: I’m this month's speaker at Girl Geek Dinner Ottawa. Join me on Wednesday, January 30th for some IRL geeky goodness. For more info, check out the event details and a sneak peek at my talk.