YouTube and personal technology company Lenovo have teamed up to launch a worldwide initiative for 14 to 18 year-old high school students.

Joined by space agencies including NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the initiative, YouTube Space Lab, invites students to design a science experiment that can be performed in space.

Two experiments will be selected by a panel of judges including Stephen Hawking, ESA astronaut Frank De Winne and Cirque du Soleil’s founder Guy Laliberté. The experiments will not only to be performed from space, but will also be live-streamed on YouTube.

Students who want to get in on the action can submit a 2-minute YouTube video describing their experiment, and in March 2012, six finalists will go to Washington DC to take part in a ZERO-G flight, which simulates the experience of life in outer space. Two winners will be selected from age groups 14 – 16 and 17 – 18, to have their experiments conducted 250 miles above Earth.

Prizes for the winning participants are a choice between a trip to Japan where they can watch as their experiment rockets into outer space, or a taste of astronaut training in Star City, Russia, the training center for Russian cosmonauts.

Space Lab is part of YouTube’s ongoing efforts in the education sector, alongside existing projects, such as EDU and YouTube Teachers.

Zahaan Bharmal, Google’s Head of Marketing Operations, Europe, Middle East, and Africa stated:

“As a company committed to the next generation of scientists, YouTube launched Space Lab to allow ordinary students the extraordinary opportunity of having their experiment carried out in space,” and the man behind the idea for Space Lab. The Space Lab channel will serve as a home base on YouTube for creating, sharing, and discovering the best space and science related videos in the world.

Our goal is to encourage students to explore the world of science, earthbound and beyond, by first accessing YouTube, and ultimately space.”

Speaking about the inspiration behind the idea, Bharmal said:

“A couple of decades, when I was 14, 15, 16, space inspired me, and it led me to work very hard at school and love science. So for a long time I witnessed first hand the awesome power of space.”

Pitching the idea to Google, as part of an internal competition where all Google employees can pitch ideas for new projects, Bharmal pitched his idea, and Google picked it up.

Lenovo’s involvement in the initiative is part of the company’s Education Research Initiative, and will be providing the four finalists with a Lenovo IdeaPad laptop.

The initiative is a first of its kind, and is an attempt to harness available technology on an international level, to contribute to the education of high school students all over the world.

All of the details of the competition can be found on YouTube’s Space Lab page, and while you’re at it, be sure to check out YouTube’s teaser video below: