Crowdsourcing Solar Flare Predicition

When NASA scientists were stymied last year in trying to devise a formula for predicting solar flares, they took an unusual approach: They posted their problem online, and offered a prize to anyone who could solve it.

One requirement: the person with the winning solution would have to fork over exclusive rights to the idea – in exchange for a $30,000 prize.

579 people considered the challenge, while only five submitted entries. The winner was a retired radio frequency engineer from New Hampshire who offered an algorithm that may be a first step in helping NASA predict when solar particles might endanger astronauts or spacecraft.

Online Chat: DJ Kachman, the Veterans Affairs Department’s director of mobile and security technology transformation lead, on April 10, at 1 p.m.

Top officials within the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget have called the contest the beginning of a huge movement.

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Now, the website challenge-dot-gov allows agencies to post challenges, create blogs and discussions, and reward winners with an array of incentives.