Another year, another success. The 2017 NASA Space Apps Challenge, an international 48-hour space-themed hackathon hosted here in Waterloo by local startup SkyWatch, took place over this past weekend.
The Space Apps Challenge was launched by NASA in 2012 and attracted over 2,000 participants in the first year. Last week-end, for the 5th edition, more than 25,000 participants across 6 continents worked together to solve challenges on a planetary scale, from natural disasters monitoring and tracking, to gaining a better understanding of ecological systems and water movements, and discovering how humans interact with their environment.
Local winning teams will work over the next few days to produce a short 30-second video for the Global round. The Global Winners will then be invited to attend a rocket launch with NASA employees. Additionally, for the first time this year, the Canadian Space Agency also participated in the event, putting forth three challenges of their own and sending CSA astronaut Jeremy Hansen to the Waterloo and Toronto locations to talk to the challengers.
Jeremy’s visit opened with a talk and live Q&A. This public event attracted a large number of children and space enthusiasts, along with many online viewers who tweeted questions @Astro_Jeremy.
This year, there were 4 winners of the various categories for the Waterloo Space Apps Challenge. Going through to the NASA Global Space Apps Challenge are the Hackstreet Boys for their work on relating atmospheric carbon data from the OCO-2 satellite to ice sheet reduction in the Our Planet Our Home category, and gWave for their work on assessing the radiation exposure to polar commercial airline flights in the Mayday, Mayday, Mayday category.
After long deliberation the award to progress to the National CSA challenge for their work on decoding the Alouette-1 legacy imagery went to the JAM team.
In addition the Hackstreet Boys also picked up the coveted SkyWatch challenge award for their work with the SkyWatch API to access the atmospheric carbon data for their winning NASA Challenge App.
Finally, Four Shades of Brown won the People’s Choice award with their smart city application.
But the challenge doesn’t stop after the bell rings. Winners from past challenges have often elected to keep working on their project. 2014 NASA Space Apps Global winner and now Waterloo Space Apps host, SkyWatch went on to collect more laurels, getting accepted into the prestigious Google for Entrepreneurs program, completing the challenging Techstars NYC program, and growing into one of the many successful startups currently working out of the new Communitech Data Hub. Similarly, Kareem Ayyad, one of the 2016 Space Apps Waterloo winners, founded Cerebian, the first dream recording technology, and is setting out to be the world's leader in Brain-Computer Interface (BCI).