Welcome to Magnitude.io
Space Hackathon 2024

Space Hackathon
1) Microgravity on Earth?
2) Healthy plants in microgravity
3) ExoLab NEXT: build your own ExoLab and connect to the mission in space!



Challenge #1:

Can we create microgravity on Earth? Not really, but we can simulate it. Learn more and build your own Random Positioning Machine or clinostat!

A Random Positioning Machine (RPM) is a device used to simulate a microgravity environment, similar to what can be experienced in outer space. It operates by constantly changing the orientation of a test sample in three-dimensional space, which has the effect of “averaging out” the force of gravity over time and space on the sample. This technique is known as “gravity vector averaging”.

The RPM is utilized in various scientific and research fields, including biology, physics, and materials science, to study the effects of microgravity on biological organisms, chemical processes, fluid dynamics, and material properties. By simulating microgravity conditions on Earth, researchers can conduct experiments and gather data that can help prepare for actual space missions, understand fundamental biological processes, and develop new materials and technologies without the need for expensive and logistically complex space flights.

The machine typically consists of two frames, one inside the other, each capable of rotating independently around two axes. By controlling the speed and direction of these rotations, the RPM can continuously change the orientation of the sample relative to the direction of gravity, effectively simulating a microgravity environment for the sample contained within.

Build your own RPM, or construct one based on an open source model you can build from our friends at Core Electronics in Newcastle Australia


A simpler version of a RPM is the clinostat.

The basic principle behind a clinostat is to rotate the plant or organism slowly around a horizontal axis, thereby continuously changing its orientation relative to the Earth’s gravitational pull. This constant reorientation is believed to mimic the effects of microgravity by distributing the gravitational force evenly around the organism, preventing it from perceiving a consistent “down” direction.

Clinostats are commonly used in gravitational biology and related research fields to investigate how gravity (or the lack thereof) affects biological processes such as plant growth direction, cell development, and gene expression.

Clinostats are valuable tools in biological research and education, allowing for relatively inexpensive and accessible ground-based simulations of microgravity effects on living organisms.

Here is a version of a clinostat you can build based on Arduino:




Challenge #2:

Our plant experiments that we send to the International Space Station are fully autonomous once installed by an astronaut. Our challenge to you is to invent a way to grow our plants in a substrate that will allow the roots to breathe. We use agarose as a water and nutrient source. This works well except that roots develop poorly due to the lack of oxygen.

Plants growing in agar and soil

In the example above Medicago truncatula seeds are grown in the agarose medium on the left with a rockwool and arcelite to create air pockets. On the right, the seeds are grown in organic soil. Both experiments were started at the same time, yet the more developed plants are in soil.

Can you solve this problem? Show us your hack! You don’t need to use an ExoLab, and any container can do for your experiment.

Keep in mind that in microgravity, particles will float around and what may be a solution here on Earth may not work well in space. Once you have designed a possible solution, germinate your seeds (any seeds will do for this trial, but you can use alfalfa or M. truncatula – the plant we are sending up in September 2024). If you have a great solution to this problem, you may find that we are adapting for our mission!

Would you like to join the actual space mission with us? You can learn more about ExoLab-11 and our next mission to the International Space Station here: https://magnitude.io/exolab



Challenge #3

ExoLabBuild your own ExoLab!

ExoLab is a network of science labs all over the world that are connected to a live mission on the International Space Station. The ExoLab measures temperature, humidity, CO2, and lux levels. It also captures an image every hour.

You can use any microcontroller or single board computer like a Raspberry Pi. The sensors and camera you choose is up to you. The dimensions of your device can be any size that you would like!

If you want to build your own ExoLab, you will need to follow our guidelines which will be released in early March, when we will make our API available. There is no cost if you would like to build your device and test it in the Magnitude playground. Keep in mind that if you would like your ExoLab to join our next mission and connect to the ISS, you will still need to get a boarding pass! Feel free to start your design now, and sign up below to be updated when our ExoLab playground API will be released.

Fill out the form below to participate in Space Hackathon 2024!

From "K to Gray", Magnitude.io can develop a bespoke interplanetary experience for your country, state, or district. Schedule time with us to discuss how we might help foster capabilities and skills for the next generation on Earth and Beyond for deployment in 2024/25. View some of our projects.