5 mins read 28 Oct 2019

Innovative Australian Teams headed for NASA Global Challenge

Over the course of a weekend in October, eight Australian teams have developed some excellent applications that have earned them nominations for a chance at winning NASA's global hackathon challenge.

Credit: NASA International Space Apps Team.

The 2019 NASA Space Apps challenge put a call out for teams to put on their innovative hats and solve real-world problems for NASA. Across Australian, over 250 amateurs and enthusiasts stepped up to the global hackathon - building natural disaster management tools, air-quality applications, and citizen science solutions, which has led to several exciting global nominations.

Eight Australian teams have received global nominations, placing them in with a chance to take out the global prize of their innovation featuring on the NASA Global Space Apps website, in addition to an invitation to the Kennedy Space Centre in 2020 with the Space Apps global organising team. Last year’s winners were invited to watch a SpaceX Falcon-9 Rocket launch.

The NASA Space Apps Challenge is now in its 8th year and is an international hackathon for coders, scientists, designers, storytellers, and technologists. This year’s global challenge saw 29,000 attendees spread across 230 locations in 80 countries participate. Teams are required to use NASA’s free and open data to address real-world Earth and space problems.

Sydney Space Apps

Credit: Ad Caelum team.

At the Sydney meet-up, 200 participants attended and formed 17 teams. Two of these teams have received a global nomination and will now compete on the world stage.  

Planet Captain – developed a live monitoring web-based application that allows in-situ humanitarian workers the ability to make data-driven decisions to help at-risk temporary housing communities. The application that this team developed uses machine-learning to track the movement of high-portability at-risk communities on the move, then consider precipitation and flooding measurements that would impact these communities. The data was sourced and produced by NASA’s Earth-observing satellites.

Aura – developed a real-time and forecasting monitoring tool that visualises the air-quality at the ‘cigarette dose scale’ and has the ability to integrate with the Alexa interface. This application trained an Artificial Intelligence algorithm to learn correlations of human activities and weather systems across population densities to predict the air quality. Users of this application would ask platforms like Alexa what the outside air quality is on a certain day, and Alexa would respond with “it’s not good. It’s like smoking 3 cigarettes today”.

And the local people’s choice winner was Ad Caelum – a citizen science application that allows users (through gamification) to review the sky above them at any time, finding out what satellites were above their region and what purpose those satellites perform.

Perth Space Apps

Save Our Sphere logo design. Credit: SciTech Team.

Over in Perth, 43 people joined the challenge with two teams receiving global nominations.

Oceanth Generation – developed a fascinating concept to allow communication for people out at sea to keep connected with their loved ones on land. This application uses technology installed on boats and aircraft crossing oceans to pass on encrypted communication packages (when either the boat or aircraft is within range) until they reach land transmitters. This would allow end-users (e.g. the fishing community) to transmit their messages more frequently as other boats and aircraft would assist through a disruptive tolerant network.

Scitech – developed an immersive Virtual Reality (VR) game where users are required to rewild three real-world endangered ecosystems (mangroves, coral reefs, and rainforests) using NASA’s data. In this game, users select the ecosystem and check that systems vital measurements (e.g. water temperatures, tidal ranges, solar irradiance, etc.). With these vitals, users are required to then seed these ecosystems and watch them grow and flourish in VR, with points awarded for the level of carbon capture; how much new life it generates and how the system deals with rising sea levels.

Scitech also took out the local people’s choice award.

Queensland Space Apps

Moon placed on a grid showing multi-colour analysis of resource location. Credit GLPN team.

Two locations in Queensland participated in the Space Apps Challenge – the Toowoomba event had 15 people attend, whilst the Brisbane event had 27 people. Three teams were given global nominations.

Phatzeni (Toowoomba) – developed a platform called Solar Creation, which is an educative platform that allows users to make selections about various star properties and planet specifications to build their own solar system model.

Nada Ozone Miltons (Brisbane) – developed a centralised data hub that provides accurate and localised air-quality information, based on the team's developed algorithm that predict the confidence level of data sources.

GLPN (Brisbane) – developed a fantastic tool that calculates the best place to look for resources on the Moon, combining data obtained from previous NASA missions and feedback from the scientific community on potential landing sites - to find the highest potential scientific and engineering opportunities for robotic or human resourced missions.

GLPN also took out the local people’s choice winner award.

The applications and concepts that resolve some real-world issues developed by the Australian teams reflect the excellent talent that our space community has, with some fantastic up and coming stars. These ideas can be transformative for all Australian’s and remind us that innovation in the space community can be a part of our everyday lives, for the better.