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10 Tips to Help You Win Cubes in Space

Participating in science and technology contests like Cubes in Space can significantly boost your profile when applying to college. Not only do they demonstrate your passion for STEM, but they also showcase your ability to tackle complex problems, work as part of a team, and follow through on long-term projects. In a competitive college admissions landscape, these attributes can set you apart from other applicants.

What is the Cubes in Space Contest?

Cubes in Space is a global design competition where students aged 11 - 18 are challenged to design and propose experiments to launch into space. This unique opportunity allows students to send their experiments on a NASA rocket or high-altitude balloon at no cost. It’s an exciting way to engage with real-world applications of STEM. Through Cubes in Space, students can engage in hands-on STEM learning by developing experiments that can operate in the conditions of space or near-space experiments. 

What is the structure of Cubes in Space? 

Cubes in Space is structured to provide a comprehensive and engaging learning experience from the initial idea to the final analysis. The competition begins with the application process, where students or teams submit detailed proposals for their experiments. These proposals outline the specific scientific question they intend to explore, the methodology they will use, and how their experiment fits within the constraints provided by the competition. Each proposal is evaluated by a panel of experts, who consider factors such as originality, scientific merit, feasibility, and safety. 

Once proposals are selected, the developmental phase begins. During this phase, teams work on constructing their experiments according to the specifications outlined in their popoals. They must adhere to strict size and weight limitations, as the experiments need to fit within a 4 cm cube. This phase often involves refining their design, conducting preliminary tests, and preparing their experiment for launch. The competition organizers offer various resources, including webinars and mentoring sessions, to help teams overcome technical challenges and optimize their designs. 

The culmination of the competition is the launch phase, where the selected experiments are sent into space on a NASA rocket or a high-altitude balloon. 

This real-world application of their projects allows students to gather data under actual space or near-space conditions. After the launch, the experiments are retrieved, and students analyze the data collected during the flight. The final phase not only helps them draw scientific conclusions but also teaches them how to present their findings effectively. Through this comprehensive structure, Cubes in Space provides students with a unique opportunity to engage in meaningful scientific inquiry and hands-on learning. 

What are the costs of Cubes in Space?

There are no direct costs of students to participate in the competition. The program is designed to be accessible to a wide range of students, regardless of their financial background. There are no fees to submit a proposal or to have an experiment launched into space.

However, participants are responsible for the costs associated with developing their experiments. This includes purchasing materials, constructing their experiment within the specified size and weight constraints, and any additional testing they may want to conduct prior to the launch. Teams may need to seek out funding or sponsorships to cover these expenses, but the competition itself does not charge for any stage of the process, making it an inclusive opportunity for all aspiring young students. 

Who is eligible to join Cubes in Space? 

The contest is open to a broad and diverse range of students: US and international students between the ages of 11-18 years of age, not attending a higher education institution, are eligible for the program. Therefore, anyone in middle and high school, whether they attend public or private schools or are homeschooled, can take part in Cubes in Space.

In addition, participants can enter individually or as part of a team, allowing for flexibility in how students approach their experiment design. 

How can I win Cubes in Space? 

If you’re interested in this competition, but find yourself unsure of where to start, then the following list of helpful tips will help you in succeeding. 

  1. You should understand the guidelines thoroughly. Understanding the competition guidelines is crucial for success. Make sure to read all the rules and requirements carefully, and ensure that your experiment idea complies with all the specified constraints. This will help you avoid disqualification and align your project with the judges' expectations.

  2. You should research past winners. Reviewing previous winning entries can provide valuable insights into what makes a successful proposal. Analyze the types of experiments that have been selected in the past, paying attention to their innovation and scientific merit. This can inspire your project and help you understand the level of detail and creativity required.

  3. You should leverage official resources. Utilize the resources provided by the competition organizers, such as webinars, guides, Q&A sessions, and the official website. These resources are designed to help you understand the process and improve your proposal. Taking full advantage of these tools can give you a significant edge over other participants.

  4. You should develop a unique and impactful idea. Select an experiment that is both innovative and has real scientific value. Think about how your project can contribute to our understanding of space or address a specific problem. A unique and impactful idea will stand out to the judges and increase your chances of being selected.

  5. You should form a strong team. If participating as a team, ensure that each member brings a unique skill set to the project. Collaboration and diverse perspectives can greatly enhance the quality and feasibility of your experiment. A well-rounded team can tackle complex problems more effectively and produce a more polished final product.

  6. You should focus on feasibility. While creativity is important, your experiment must also be feasible within the constraints of the competition. Ensure that your proposal is realistic and can be executed with the available resources and time. A feasible project is more likely to be selected and successfully launched.

  7. You should detail your methodology. Clearly outline your experimental procedure in your proposal. Judges need to understand how you plan to conduct your experiment, the materials you will use, and how you will collect and analyze data. A well-detailed methodology demonstrates thorough planning and increases the credibility of your project.

  8. You should emphasize safety. Safety is paramount in any scientific experiment, especially those launched into space. Ensure that your experiment adheres to all safety guidelines and includes appropriate safety measures. Highlighting safety in your proposal shows that you have considered all potential risks and taken steps to mitigate them.

  9. You should practice clear and concise writing. Your proposal should be well-written, clear, and concise. Avoid using jargon and make sure your ideas are easy to understand. Use diagrams and charts if they help explain your concept better, as clear communication is key to conveying the value of your experiment to the judges.

  1. You should seek feedback. Before submitting your proposal, get feedback from teachers, mentors, or peers. They can provide valuable insights and identify areas for improvement that you might have missed. Constructive criticism can help you refine your project and increase its chances of success.

Our Thoughts

Participating in the Cubes in Space competition is a solid opportunity for students to engage in hands-on STEM learning by designing and launching experiments into space. With no entry fees and a wealth of official resources available, this contest is accessible to a diverse range of students globally. To succeed, participants should thoroughly understand the guidelines, draw inspiration from past winners, leverage available resources, and choose unique, impactful ideas. Emphasizing feasibility, detailing methodology, prioritizing safety, and practicing clear writing are crucial. Forming strong teams and seeking feedback can further enhance their chances. Overall, Cubes in Space is a remarkable platform for young scientists to explore their creativity and contribute to space research.

One other option – Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you are interested in doing university-level research in STEM or other subjects, which can become a topic to talk about in your college application, then you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.

Lydia is currently a junior at Harvard University, studying Molecular and Cellular Biology and Economics. In high school, she was the captain of her high school’s Academic Decathlon team and attended the Governor's School of Engineering and Technology. She aims to become a life sciences consultant after graduation. 

Image Source: Cubes in Space logo


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