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The sky's the limit with global high-altitude balloon challenge

Teams from around the world will send balloons up to 100,000 feet or more, testing the limits of the creativity, and their engineering ingenuity.

Participants in the Global Space Balloon Challenge will be tasked with building a high-altitude balloon that can reach heights of up to 100,000 feet.
Screen shot by CNET

Geeks of the world unite! And fly high, very high.

From April 18 through April 21, teams from around the globe will compete in the Global Space Balloon Challenge, an event aimed at seeing what's possible when it comes to building high-altitude balloons.

Launched by Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Michigan, the challenge was started "to encourage people of all ages to get their hands dirty building their own space hardware, and to promote the spirit of hardware hacking and international [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] collaboration."

In a video announcing the challenge, would be participants are urged to take part with this inspiring call to action:

The premise is simple: Some clever ideas, a camera, some rope, a box, and a balloon. Through North America, Europe, Asia, the entire globe, your ideas and engineering potential will take flight. You'll come up with novel ideas, [and] refine age-old ones to assemble your very own payload. You'll rig up parachutes, use GPS, Google Maps, and wind pattern software. You'll drive out to the middle of nowhere, fill up a balloon, and finally, when it's all ready, let it go. It will rise far away and off into the distance, and as it sheds its earthly confines, it will rise 80-, 90-, even 100,000 feet. And perhaps even more.

After a few long hours, your GPS will roar to life, and you'll spring to action. In a plowed cornfield, a barren desert, a grassy slope, or maybe a crowded intersection, you'll find what you launched so many hours ago.

Will this challenge inspire the technology that will either boost or overtake things like Google's Project Loon? It's hard to say. But there's no denying that seeing teams from countries all over the world send their balloons up so high in the sky is inspiring.

A photograph taken from a high-altitude balloon as it launched. Screen shot by CNET

For those hoping to compete, the costs aren't even prohibitive. According to organizers, it's expected that materials will run in the neighborhood of between $200 and $700. Prizes will be awarded for best photograph, best design, and highest altitude.