Creators of the bicentennial time capsule plan for future of M-BARC project

Sunday, October 29, 2017 - 3:47pm

The University of Michigan is no stranger to outer space. Now, with the closure of the University's Bicentennial, a first-ever time capsule — containing information all about a modern Michigan — will be launched into the cosmos.

The Michigan Bicentennial Archive,  referred to as “M-BARC”, hosted a panel Friday afternoon in Stamps Auditorium to reveal the finished Bicentennial time capsule. The capsule was presented to the students who created it, and includes interviews from hundreds of members of the University of Michigan community including students, faculty, staff and alumni to give future generations a clear image of what the University was like during its bicentennial year. 

The event began with various speakers including University President Mark Schlissel and Gary Krenz, executive director of the Bicentennial office. The event continued with M-BARC’s panel, in which students showed videos of the process, answered questions regarding the creation of the time capsule and unveiled the finished product.

“The M-BARC project represents a new chapter in Michigan research and educational excellence, and also in Michigan ambition,” Schlissel said during the event. “The M-BARC project unites the extraordinary talents of the students today across different disciplines while also issuing a challenge to the students of the future.”

The students who helped to create the time capsule had the responsibility of collecting interviews and information in a way that would represent the community and would be relevant in a century. The project team was led by Hashmita Koka, a recently graduated aerospace engineer, as well as other important members of the team including Engineering graduate students Aakar Sheth and Connor Bluhm, and faculty lead Aaron Ridley, professor of climate and space sciences and engineering. The team also had non-engineers to offer alternative perspectives when gathering interviews.

M-BARC’s unique challenge is that in 100 years students will have to figure out how to bring the time capsule back to Earth and read the encoded interviews. The time capsule also contains the words of the song “The Yellow and Blue” embedded in DNA sequences, which will allow future students to study the effect of radiation in space on DNA.

“This was the first official event with the Bicentennial committee, and it was really great to talk about it and to share our experiences working on the team,” Koka said. “I hope that 100 years from now people will actually go back and retrieve (the time capsule).”

The panel of students held a Q&A session, during which members of the audience inquired about the many technicalities of the project. One of the students present in the audience was Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore Zoha Bharwani.

“I didn’t realize how extensive it (the project) was,” Bharwani said. “I think it’s so cool because it bridged so many diverse groups of people and so many different schools of thought.”

At the conclusion of the event, the audience was given 3-D printed models of the time capsule itself, which featured the Block ‘M’ on one side, as they exited the auditorium. Prof. Ridley said the idea to have the audience leave with a miniature version of the time capsule came from the students.

“The students have been unbelievable throughout this, and they’ve pushed really hard,” Ridley said. “A lot of the faculty led initiatives are the faculty saying you do this and this, but really it’s been the students who’ve driven the whole thing.”

The launch date for the time capsule is expected to be sometime in May 2018.