DARPA "balloon hunt" could win you $40K cash

DARPA wants you to find 10 red weather balloons

DARPA's litt;e red ballons
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) today offered up a rather interesting challenge: find and plot 10 red weather balloons scattered at undisclosed locations across the country.  The first person to identify the location of all the balloons and enter them on the challenge Web site will win a $40,000 cash prize. 

According ton the agency, the balloons will be in readily accessible locations, visible from nearby roadways and accompanied by DARPA representatives. All balloons are scheduled to go on display at all locations at 10:00AM (ET) until approximately 4:00 PM  on Saturday, December 5, 2009. Should weather or technical difficulties arise with the launch, the display will be delayed until Sunday, December 6 or later, depending on conditions. If, for any reason, the balloon is displayed in one location then moved to a second location, either location will be accepted. 

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Entrants are required to register and submit entries on the event website. Latitudes and longitudes are entered in degree-minute-second (DDD-MM-SS) format as explained on the website Coordinates must be entered with an error of less than one arc-minute to be accepted. 

The DARPA Network Challenge is designed to mark the 40th anniversary of the Internet. "It is fitting for DARPA to announce this competition on the anniversary of the day that the first message was sent over the ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet," said Dr. Regina E. Dugan, who made the announcement at a conference celebrating the anniversary. "In the 40 years since this breakthrough, the Internet has become an integral part of society and the global economy. The DARPA Network Challenge explores the unprecedented ability of the Internet to bring people together to solve tough problems." 

This is the latest example of DARPA's interest in reaching nontraditional sources of ideas and talent. The Grand Challenge competitions were started in 2004 to foster the development of autonomous robotic vehicle technology for use on the battlefield. The competition model for stimulating technological development enabled significant strides that will someday keep our men and women in uniform out of harm's way. 

DARPA has held a number of challenges including  one that featured robot cars and another that seeks to develop  lunar spacecraft

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