Last week, the top six global winners were announced for the International Space Apps Challenge. The top six challenges were chosen from the 29 finalists chosen from over 100 submitted solutions at 25 participating locations. But here’s the thing, there were so many incredible ideas submitted to the Space Apps Challenge that it is almost easy to overlook some of the challenges that were not highlighted through the global judging process.
Let me give you an example that I’ve been sharing with others when they ask about the innovation that happened at the event.
It was 12:00pm on day #2 of the Space Apps Challenge. I was in Oxford, UK where some of the most innovative solutions originated. I was walking around, documenting the event and doing interviews with some of the participants, when I met 16 year old Sam Wilkinson. Sam’s not your ordinary 16 year old and he also didn’t have time for an interview. He did ask a question though…
“Nick, what time does judging start this afternoon?”
“4:00pm, but we’ll need everyone to wrap up their work a bit earlier so that we can make sure you get it submitted on time.”
“Okay, do you think I have enough time to try to solve another challenge? I’m really interested in Baker Faire.”
“Um, well, do you have anyone else working on it with you?”
“No, just me.”
“You better get on it then, you only have 3 and half hours max.”
“Okay, I’ll see what I can do.”
Four hours later the judging process started. The judges had a really difficult time picking the top three teams. Sam submitted a solution called “Aeration & Low Temperature Baking”. Included here is his final presentation along with the slides he created:
In the end, Sam took third place in Oxford which put him one place out of qualifying for the global judging. But that didn’t slow him down. He returned home and kept working on his idea. In an email to me a few days later he writes:
“Hi again, I tested my hypothesis in my school chemistry lab with excellent results!!! Will film it tomorrow (camera broke) and send you the link.”
Here is the video he posted as well as an explanation from his blog.
“By using the process of bread aeration, by which carbon dioxide is actually forced into the bread, the only ingredients required to produce dough are water, flour and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is mixed with water to form a 8.4×10-2 mol/L solution of carbonic acid, as well as excess aqueous carbon dioxide. If the partial pressure of the carbon dioxide is maintained at 2.5 atm, this concentration of carbonic acid will be maintained as the system enters a dynamic equilibrium between the aqueous carbonic acid and gaseous carbon dioxide. The solution is mixed thoroughly with ordinary flour (and any other required flavourings i.e. salt, sugar etc.) at a (20/7):1 water:flour ratio in a sealed container with the carbon dioxide at a consistent partial pressure of 2.5 atm (about the same pressure as carbon dioxide in a soda bottle). The pressure in the sealed container is then released. This decrease in pressure causes the carbonic acid which is mixed into the flour to be converted into carbon dioxide gas. The carbon dioxide that is evolved from the mixture will be maintained in suspension within the mixture. Combined with microgravity, this will cause an even, leavened dough to be formed.”
Sam’s solution was later picked up by Make Magazine’s blog.
“Just thought you might be interested that my space bread is getting blogged about! Here is the link to the post on Make The video on the post is pretty cool if I do say so myself. Could have done it on the weekend with a vacuum cleaner and fizzy water!”
It’s an incredible example of the ingenuity we witnessed at the International Space Apps Challenge. It’s people like Sam Wilkinson that made the event so successful. Space Bread truly showcases the potential of participatory exploration to help solve our space exploration and social needs.
Johnson Space Center