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Space Apps: a hackathon for ideating solutions to NASA’s challenges

Apps móviles, Big Data, Cloud Computing, IDEs, Innovación, Open Data, Smart cities, 0 comments

Author: Borja A. Espejo García

Advanced Information Systems Laboratory (IAAA)

Universidad de Zaragoza

Last 29th and 30th of April, the sixth edition of NASA Space Apps took place. In this occasion, 187 cities participated all over the world, and Zaragoza was one of them. For the fourth consecutive year, this event was organized in @etopia_.

Space Apps arises as a NASA’s project for establishing a progress based on a more open, transparent and accessible science. The main issues of NASA Space Apps, and which are supported by @spaceappsZgz year after year, are the use of open data in research, the development of open-source software, hardware and algorithms, as a support of a more reproducible science and the possibility of enabling educational resources for students, scientists and every citizen that is interested in science.

To achieve this ambitious (but necessary) objective, NASA Space Apps is implemented as a hackathon. That is to say, a meeting where professionals and students of different fields face NASA’s challenges during 36 uninterrupted hours. These challenges are based on real problems that will play an important role in the next years and that we must know and face with new tools that maybe haven’t been yet created and whose seed can be planted in events like this.

The challenges of this edition were related to Earth Observation, with four different categories: Ideate and Create! Our Ecological Neighbourhood, Warning! Danger Ahead! and Planetary Blues. Based on them, Geoslab offered a prize to the team that could integrate NASA’s data sources with those of the Spatial Data Infrastructure of Spain (IDEE). Finally, the winner was the Hack-A-Tron team, composed by:

  • Miguel Ángel Langarita Barba
  • Simion Bordean
  • Ángel Felipe Santaliestra Pasias
  • Fernando Gallego Diaz

In only 36 hours, Hack-A-Tron conceived, designed and developed the prototype of a system that gives to the user information about the different habitats, geographical and ecological conditions that different species need for their survival and growth. The developed system works with the base cartography from Spain SDI and MAPAMA (Ministry of Agriculture and Environment) data. The prototype has been implemented using Web technologies such as Javascript, HTML and OpenLayers v.3.4.0.

Hackathons, like Space Apps, bring to participants the opportunity of experimenting in a short period of time with an important amount of personal and professional experiences that can influence in their professional future. For the last four years (GeoSLab has supported the last three), more than 120 people have participated. Moreover, an important part of them have repeated the experience. Most of them agree that their professional perspective is very different now in comparison to the vision before the hackathon.

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Twitter: @spaceappsZgz