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Introducing the International Space Apps Challenge

  • 15 March 2012
  • Written by 
  • Published in Space

NASA, in conjunction with a variety of international space and science-focussed organisations, is seeking to engage people around the world in a codeathon to develop and improve access to space data from a variety of sources.

On the weekend of April 21st and 22nd a world-wide coding event will seek to harness the combined abilities of many coders to improve access to all kinds of data.

According to the site spaceappschallenge.org, "The International Space Apps Challenge is a 2 day technology development event during which citizens from around the world will work together to solve current challenges relevant to both space exploration and social need. The International Space Apps Challenge will take place on all seven continents - and in space - on 21-22 April 2012.

"Locations in which events are currently planned to be held include San Francisco, US; Tokyo, Japan; Melbourne and Canberra, Australia; Jakarta, Indonesia; Exeter and Oxford, UK; Nairobi, Kenya; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and McMurdo Station, Antarctica. There will be additional events throughout the world and participation by Astronauts on the International Space Station."

The commentary continues, "The International Space Apps Challenge is a "codeathon-style" event. A codeathon is a unique event that brings together citizens interested in collaborating on the development solutions that address critical challenges. A codeathon celebrates software development in its most positive context'”using minimal resources and maximum brainpower to create outside- the-box solutions in response to interesting problems. Codeathons are technology development marathons, drawing on the talents and initiative of the best and the brightest software developers, engineers, designers and technologists from around the world, who volunteer their time to respond to real- world problems with solutions than can have immediate impact.

"At the events, individuals collaborate with others by forming teams focused on solving a particular challenge. The teams compete with other teams around the world to utilize publicly available space and data to design innovative "solutions" to a pre-determined series of global 'challenges.' "

Although open for new challenges, the current set of problems is listed on the next page.

The primary set of problems is:

Open Data Challenge - Kepler: a task to make data from the Kepler space telescope, which is searching for habitable planets in our galaxy, more usable and accessible.

Handheld Hardware for Citizens: this challenge seeks to develop new hardware that may be used as part of any one of NASA's citizen science missions.

Size of Earth App: Participants are challenged to develop an App that can collect cooperative observations from multiple parties and use the combined data to determine the size of the Earth.

Eratosthenes succeeded around 500BC in making a pretty-good estimate with nothing more than simple geometry.  Can you do better?

NASA Planetary Data Systems Interface: Develop a tool for anyone to better access the data stored on the Planetary Data System data set.

HTML5 Access to NASA Earth Observations: Create a stand-alone tablet App to access the NASA Earth Observations web site.

Preliminary Design for Open Data API: This is a more technical challenge - NASA is looking for help in developing an API for generalised access to their data sets.

Create Semantic Data Descriptor File: Another technical challenge.  Here NASA is seeking assistance to create a semantic XML/RDF method for describing the contents of NASA datasets.

Prospective participants are asked to register in advance and to nominate the centre they propose to attend (it helps if they're living in the same city!).  Having registered, it will be useful for people to start considering their selected problem in order to have prepared material when they join the happy throng.

Here in Melbourne (where iTWire is based) the gathering will take place at the Victorian Space Science Education Centre in Pascoe Vale (close to the intersection of Bell St and the Tulla).  A second Australian location (in Canberra) is at the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre at the Australian National University.  There is no announcement (yet) for Sydney, but there is still time for someone to get involved.

Australian governmental partners of the event include:

Australian Department of Innovation, Space Policy Unit
Space Industry Innovation Council
National ICT Australia (NICTA)

In addition, these organisations are also partnering the event:

Victoria Space Science Education Centre
Australian Youth Aerospace Association
Australian National University, Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre.

iTWire will be attending the Melbourne event - hope to see you all there.



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