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Big Thinking: You Create An X-Prize Contest To Solve A Pressing Problem

Remember the Ansari X-Prize, when there was a race about a decade ago for the first private spaceship to go into space and then return? The result not only saw Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne make it into suborbit, but also launched Virgin Galactic — one of the most talked-about space companies today.

Imagine if you had a burning problem that you wanted to solve. It could be related to space exploration, or astronomy, or climate change, or something else altogether.

In recognition of this, the X-Prize foundation has spun off a new company called HeroX to crowdsource ideas and funding for a prize competition. And Universe Today’s Fraser Cain, who has just joined the organization, wants readers to help him out with the ImagineX challenge! More details below.

“Imagine if a large enough group of people could come together, pool their resources, and issue a challenge that would inspire competitors to solve it,” Fraser wrote on his Google+ page, pointing out the X-Prize organization itself has broadened its scope to contests related to oil cleanup and low-carbon emission vehicles, among others.

The X-Prize winning SpaceShip One (credit: Scaled Composites)

The X-Prize winning SpaceShip One (credit: Scaled Composites)

“The goal with HeroX is that anyone can come and create a challenge,” he added. “And then anyone can pledge to help fund the prize. And then anyone can compete to solve the challenge and win the prize.”

According to HeroX’s ImagineX website, these are the broad guidelines:

  • Addresses a problem that people want solved
  • Is important to a large number of people
  • Is solvable
  • Engages people in discussing, competing and solving the challenge
  • Provides all the required information for a challenge to run on HeroX.com

Submissions will be judged on quality of submission, crowd engagement and influence and crowd appeal, and you can read more detailed guidelines here. Think carefully about your idea and when you’re ready, be sure to contribute before the deadline of Sept. 1, 2014. Winners will receive a cool $10,000.

For more information, read up on ImagineX here.


Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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