International NASA Space Apps Challenge 2013

By Joseph
iHub
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NASA Space Apps is back! This two-day international event, that was being held in 76 cities around the world from 20th-21st April, was focused on technological development in software, open hardware, data visualisation and citizen science. This year’s challenge required each team to build solutions that could be integrated with a mobile device and in this way, improve connectivity for ordinary citizens to the vast information from NASA.

The first day was remarkably, with a large number of participants turning up for the event.  After the introduction video, we had the participants select their challenges from the 50 projects on the Space Apps website. They then formed their respective teams, selected team names and went straight to work.

A full-house at iHub as participants take part in the Space Apps hackathon

The room was filled with energy as the eleven teams carried on the projects, with everyone excited to make sure that their project was shortlisted to be among best. More than that, the participants just wanted to have fun and enjoy working together on 'out-of-the-box' projects based on space exploration.

 

Participants during the break-out session

Most of the hackers stayed overnight at the iHub to finalize on their projects, and just to shake of the weariness, we did the harlem shake which added to the fun and energy of the event.

This year’s projects were:

  • MySpace Cal:asatellitescheduler that sets out to display in an easy to use way, thetargets of satellites.
  • Roost Manager: An application that enables small scale poultry farmers to manage their poultry.
  • 55 Ctrix: a wearable LED display that carries some basic information about the unique qualities of the planet 55 cancri. This LED T-shirt also had a printed QR Code that links to an android app with more details and images about the planet.
  • The Rovers: This mobile application utilizes a DF Rover, different sensors, a Raspberry Pi computer and a mobile PC interface all smartly put together to provide an easy and fun learning tool for students willing to learn the control login behind sensors, robots and their chipsets and the functions of the same.
  • Simiyu the Chicken: A game where the player helps a chicken, called Simiyu ,to jump on various leg platforms and reach the stats. As the player achieves high altitude, the game teaches him/her various theories leading to the existence of the earth, the current state and future of the universe.
  • Elusive Giants: This application was aimed to build a software solution that uses geo-data from Kenya Wildlife Service and NASA geo datasets to map elephants and this way, assists in monitoring their existence in the era of massive poaching which endangers their species. This data can also be used to assist in conservation efforts and to raise awareness on human wildlife conflict that might exist.
  • Mwewe: This application was built to both capture and transmit images taken on an Android phone at near-space based platform (preferably a draw) and upload it on the cloud server in real time telemetry.
  • Mars Rovers Coders: Geo-visualization of mars over paths; the paths and photos are in near real time displayed on a rich interactive map.
  • Will.I.R@ (Will I reach): An android augmented reality implementation that has long term goal of enabling youths and young children to engage technically with the space activities such as lift offs, space landing procedures and ship repairs, on earth as well as on mars and on the curiosity rover.
  • Mission Light-Years: an open hardware design for the European Space Agency (ESA) that can be generated by a 3D printer whereby a 3D model of the ESA EXPERT Mission's Payload Bay propelled by a VOLNA Launcher was designed and printed.
  • NASA Heartz: A web -based/mobile app that collects data from interns at NASA based on how they feel about their work. It then uses these emotions towards their internship at NASA to come up with graphs and maps then generated to indicate the percentage of the different emotions.
 

Participants working on their projects

The teams spent second day of the event mostly tweaking their projects and finalizing on any recommendations made by their team mentors, with a deadline of having all their contentpubliclyavailable Github midday. This is line with Space Apps mission of knowledge sharing in terms of making projects,both hardware and software, open source.

The judging was carried out in the afternoon session where each team did a five minute presentation to showcase their project, its scope, important and potential for future development- the criteria on which the judging was conducted. Our judging panel consisted of John Kieti, Reg Orton, Eric Dunivant, Jessica Colaco and Anne Muigai, formed a dynamic team all of whom have vast experience in each of the four categories of the Space Apps challenge.

 

Barry, from the Rover team, demoing his team's project to the panel of judges

 

While the judges broke off to discuss the results from the presentations, we had each team do a rap on their experience at this year’s NASA Space Apps challenge in a vibrant and entertaining way. Here’s a video of the best outstanding presentations that stood out:

SpaceAppsRap

Finally, the moment we had all been waiting for arrived with the top three projects winning a Samsung Galaxy SIII in addition to a silver Github membership valid for the year. The best project was The Rover, which combined robotics with education since it could be used to simplify the concepts of robotics and engineering in a fun enjoying way using a mobile app.

 

An image of the Rover project, the winning project for this year's Space Apps Challenge

 

The second prize was awarded to the team working on ‘Simiyu the Chicken’- an interactive game that, a sort of Kenyan twist to the popular Angry Birds, that gives the player importance on space on every level achieved.

The winners of the second place prize for Space Apps Challenge- the makers of the 'Simiyu the Chicken' game

The third position was taken by the team behind 55 Ctrix, which was working on the LED display on a t-shirt that displays information on the unique but largely unknown planet 55 cancri.

 

The 55 Ctrix team that came in 3rd place

 

 

The 55 Ctrix working on their LED t-shirt

The participants enjoyed being a part of this year’s Space Apps challenge, it gave them an opportunity to both apply their creativity as well as learn from each other. What stood out was that participants not only encouraged their fellow team members as they worked on their projects, but in addition went out of their way to assist other teams in the challenges and road blocks that they encountered during the hackathon. This, as well as the fun and almost goofy events of the day, brought about a collaborative, inspiring and enjoyable environment that was a part of the success of the Space Apps 2013. I take this opportunity to thank the team behind this year’s Space Apps Nairobi that played a major role in both organizing and coordinating the event and ensuring that the participants had a pleasant experience. We thank our judges and mentors for their invaluable insight in selecting the winning teams and motivating the other participating teams.

 

The all-female team behind this year's Space Apps Challenge, with notable assistance from James.

Space Apps was proudly sponsored by iHub Research and m-lab East Africa.

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