The Barcelona ZeroG Challenge gives university students the opportunity to design an experiment to be conducted in zero gravity

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The UPC, in collaboration with the Barcelona-Sabadell Aviation Club, has pioneered the development of parabolic flying for scientific experiments using single-engine light aircraft

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The team with the best proposal will have the chance to perform the parabolic flight experiment

The Barcelona ZeroG Challenge is an international competition in which teams of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree students are asked to design and build an experiment to be conducted in microgravity. The registration period ends on 30 June 2021.

Jan 25, 2021

The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC), in collaboration with the Barcelona-Sabadell Aviation Club and the student association Space Generation Advisory Council, organises the Barcelona ZeroG Challenge. The competition is open to teams of up to four students aged between 18 and 35 from any discipline who must submit scientific experiments that need to be conducted in microgravity. The aim of the competition is to encourage scientific vocations, especially in astronautics and space research, and also to disseminate scientific experimentation.

The team with the best proposal, endorsed by a mentor, will have the chance to perform the parabolic flight experiment, in addition to receiving a 2,500-euro grant. Projects will be assessed and selected on the basis of suitability, scientific merit, safety, mentor endorsement, an international and diversity dimension and dissemination activities by independent experts from the European Space Agency (ESA).

The parabolic flight, which allows experiments to be conducted in the absence of gravity, will be performed on a certified acrobatic aircraft at the Barcelona-Sabadell Aviation Club. Media will attend and cover the event. The UPC, in collaboration with the Barcelona-Sabadell Aviation Club, has pioneered the development of parabolic flying for scientific experiments using single-engine light aircraft.

Participation requirements
Teams must submit a two- or three-page proposal that includes the scientific or technical objectives and expected experimental results both on the ground and in flight; a justification of the need for zero gravity; a detailed description of the experiment and of how the data will be processed and analysed; and finally a brief summary of the relevance of the experiment. Teams of multidisciplinary, diverse and international students and ideas for disseminating and communicating the research will be positively valued.

In addition, participants must submit a short résumé for each team member and a letter of support from a mentor at an academic institution. Documents must be submitted in a compressed file to the competition e-mail address barcelona.zerog@gmail.com before 30 June 2021. The flight of the experiment selected is scheduled for the end of 2021. Meetings and information sessions will be held throughout the year to familiarise students with the Challenge.

Regarding the experiment’s technical characteristics, it must not exceed the maximum dimensions of 80 × 50 × 50 cm and a maximum weight of 20 kg, and it must have an autonomous supply of electricity. The design must ensure that it can be attached to the aircraft or that it is portable. The aircraft will perform successive manoeuvres up to a total of 20 parabolas of up to 8.5 seconds each.

Selection procedure
An independent committee of experts from the European Space Agency (ESA) will choose the winning experiment.

The Barcelona ZeroG Challenge began in 2010 as an educational competition that gives university students around the world the opportunity to conduct research in microgravity conditions. The experiments are conducted on the non-profit UPC BarcelonaTech parabolic flight platform located at Sabadell Airport (Barcelona). This innovative platform, in operation since 2008, performs parabolas of up to 8.5 seconds of microgravity with single-engine, light aerobatic aircraft. It is a pioneering platform that is open to scientific and technological collaboration with other research groups. Teams of students from several countries have participated in previous editions and have subsequently presented their work in conferences and scientific journals.

The professor and researcher Antoni Perez-Poch, from the Multimedia Applications and ICTs Laboratory of the Barcelona East School of Engineering (EEBE), who promotes the project, explains that this UPC research group has developed a specific flight simulator for this type of manoeuvre to optimise the flight technique. UPC students have participated in this line of research with several bachelor’s and master’s theses.