Pitt becomes Member of NASA's JPL University Crowdsourcing Initiative

The University of Pittsburgh is now a proud member of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory's JPL University Crowdsourcing Initiative, known as JUCI! The following projects are available to all students within and outside of SSoE, with more to follow! If you or your fellow students are interested in the projects listed below, please provide the following to Dr. Matthew Barry (matthew.michael.barry@pitt.edu) via email one week before the due date:

  • Description of the university, program, faculty, and student(s) capabilities.
  • Number of (undergraduate or graduate) students likely to participate.
  • Approximate start time and duration of support.
  • Name(s) and email address(es) of the faculty advisor(s) leading the effort.
  • Solution-oriented responses are not desired in Letters of Interest. You (Dr. Barry) will be notified by email if your challenge response is selected and next steps will be outlined for you.


  1. Challenge Title: A Traveling Salesperson Problem for Astronomy

    Challenge Initiator: Charles Shapiro

    Challenge Statement: This is a COMPUTATIONAL CHALLENGE; no prior astronomy knowledge is required. Astronomers must carefully prioritize observations when given finite time to access a telescope. Prioritization is challenging since each target (star, galaxy, etc.) requires a different observation time (delay) before moving on. Also, favorable observing conditions change throughout the night: observing stars takes less time when they are highest in the sky, and stars become unobservable when below the horizon. We require an algorithm that, given a list of targets and their time-dependent delays, sorts the list to maximize (perhaps approximately) the number of completed targets for the night.

    Letter of Interest Due Date: 2022-10-03

  2. Challenge Title: Magnetic Reconfigurable Cube Mission Design

    Challenge Initiator: Thomas Disarro

    Challenge Statement: Mechanical engineering students UC Boulder have been working on a prototype 1U CubeSats that can connect into a large structure using permanent magnets in each face and can reconfigure by controlling electromagnets in space. The purpose of this challenge would be to work in parallel with the mechanical prototype team, focusing on the bigger picture of this concept: explore use-cases for this technology and develop mission architectures for both a flight system and a small-scale technology demonstration. There is currently not a flight opportunity for this technology, but this effort could be used as part of proposals for future funding.

    Letter of Interest Due Date: 2022-09-30

Before responding to this challenge please review the following terms:  

While it is our intent technology resulting from JUCI projects will be devoted to the public, JPL may require the participating university to sign a contract allowing JPL intellectual property and licensing rights to products resulting from these efforts.

Faculty and students should not include any confidential or proprietary information in their Letter of Interest.  JPL/Caltech may use the information in the Letter of Interest for any purpose, without any restrictions or obligations of confidentiality, and without any compensation or credit to you.

If selected, faculty will be required to email final products and resumes of top performing student participants. Submission of photos and success stories is highly encouraged, however, do not submit any photos unless you grant JPL permission to use them, including on the JUCI website. Images should be at least 275px in height and either .jpeg or .png file format. 

I acknowledge that I am requesting the opportunity to volunteer in JPL's JUCI Program. As a volunteer, I agree that I am freely donating my services to JPL with no expectation of receiving, any payment or compensation from JPL for performing the volunteer services. I understand that my volunteer activities do not create an employee-employer relationship with JPL and I acknowledge that JPL has made no promise of future employment to me.  I understand that JPL and I have the right to terminate this arrangement at any time without prior notice.

Date :
Friday, August 19, 2022 - 11:00