Select Past Competitions:

2011 Competition Topic

Can you save people on earth from ash cloud?

It is the year 2040. Fossil fuels are no longer used around the world- almost everyone on the planet uses solar energy and fuel from plants and algae to meet their energy needs. A volcanic eruption from the Yellowstone Supervolcano has caused the sun to be blocked out by about 10% around the world, due to a giant cloud of ash and aerosol particles that is circling the globe. It is predicted that it will take at least 2-3 years for the emergency to be controlled, though there may be problems for many more years to come.

What if you are on an orbiting space station when the volcano erupts, and your government tells you that you will have to remain on the station for the next 2-3 years, since they cannot send anyone to help you until the emergency situation has been controlled? Your space station is self-sufficient, so you can produce all of the breathable air, food and water that you will need while in orbit. However, your space station is part of a massive orbiting solar energy array, so you can send electricity, images, and messages to a limited number of people on the ground as you pass overhead.

How would a massive volcanic eruption disrupt life for people, animals and plants on the ground, both near the volcano and worldwide? What could you do to help the emergency situation from the space station? Specifically describe how you would prioritize your time and the solar energy resources on the station to help people on the ground, especially if there were more people that need help than you could ever possibly assist from the space station.