On April 20-21st, NASA held it’s second annual International Space Apps Challenge. Over 8,000 participants worldwide competed to solve 58 challenges ranging from “Backyard Poultry Farmer” which asked challengers to create a PMS (Poultry Management System) for backyard farmers, to “Hitch a Ride to Mars”, a challenge to design a CubeSat for an upcoming Mars mission, and everything in between. The event was kicked off by a welcome video from NASA reps pumping up the crowd, and a shoutout from last years winner, Sam Wilkinson, a 16-year-old from Oxford who figured out how to bake bread in space.
Over the the next 24 hours, 200 hackers hunkered down at the AlleyNYC location, keyboards a-clackin, soldering irons ablaze, on a noble mission to democratize space exploration for NYC.s
Come Sunday afternoon, there were 21 hacks ready to go at NYC HQ. Hacks like Space Races, which helps children simulate a space mission by allowing them to choose the delivery vehicle, propulsion type, and whether the mission is manned or not, and then shows actual NASA footage of the liftoff. Another app, Spot the Station, allows people to check into the International Space Station on Foursquare when it’s overhead.
One of the most dynamic hacks of the weekend was “Astroid Mapper,” a CubeSat for Astroid Exploration built by a team of 13. With parts stripped from a Parrot AR Drone, gesture control a la Leap Motion, and an onboard spatial mapping Xbox Kinect, we all watched in horror and amazement as the quad copter on steroids flew up and down the room mapping it’s interior before doing a barrel roll towards judges with a casual gesture from the the presenter. Needless to say, “Astroid Mapper” was a bit of a crowd favorite.
In the end, Judges David Hochman (Tech Consultant), Jennifer Gustetic (Prizes Program Executive at NASA), Ron Garan (Astronaut), and Liz Barry (Director of Urban Environment at the Public Laboratory of Open Technology) made the difficult decision to pick 2 submissions that will go on to compete for the international prize. The NYC Space Apps Challenge winners are:
- Ilyass Garara, Soumia Lebbal, and Amine Benabdeljalil for MySpaceCal - a beautiful mobile app for amateur astronomers that offers a user-friendly calendar for finding out when and where satellites will be. - Ankur Oberoi and Phil Reichenberger for Tiny Sea Bots - a Leap Motion controller and tunnel for controlling an OpenROV undersea rover from across the globe.
The Aviary API prize, an Arduino + Camera + MicroSD snapon, went to Le Big BLue, which aimed to solve The Blue Marble challenge. A team of 4 intrepid high school students from P-Tech built a website that makes NASA space imagery and meta data more social and accessible by offering image editing (via Aviary) and sharing functionality to your favorite social networks. Congratulations to Rahat Mahmud (10th Grade), Nicholas Allman (10th Grade), Nikolas Rassoule (9th Grade) and Gabe Rsa (10th Grade) for Le Big Blue!
NYC Organizers Mike Caprio and Alice Ng also deserve a big shout out for putting together what looks to have been the largest Space Apps Challenge to date, and for one of the most exciting hackathons we've had the pleasure of attending.
For a more detailed rundown of the event, check out Julian Taub's writeup on Motherboard.
If you're in NYC and looking for a hackathon to attend this weekend, check out the "Healthy Living and Lifelong Learning" BigAppsNYC Hackathon taking place this Saturday, May 4th at the Huffington Post.