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Houston, we have (no) problem – solving some of NASA’s Space Apps challenges

Space Apps

BY BEN NOBLE, PA DIGITAL EXPERT

Every year, NASA's innovation programme 'Space Apps' runs an international two-day hackathon challenge where teams of young technologists, scientists, designers, artists, educators, entrepreneurs, developers and students from across the globe collaborate to design innovative solutions for global challenges.

This year over 12,500 participants took part at 147 locations across the globe and PA’s digital solutions team took on the task of organising the London event – one of the largest events. The event was hosted at Inmarsat HQ, a brilliant central London location, and we were well placed to organise the event as the PA team of developers, including myself, participated in previous years. 

Our hard work paid off as we won the 2014 global award for Greatest Galactic Impact for SkySnapper  – a project which measured air quality by crowd-sourcing images of the sky to map and assess air pollution in certain areas and monitor progress over time.

The PA team of volunteers helped out on 11 and 12 April in an intense 30 hour period to support the 18 teams (78 participants in total) as they progressed their project ideas, munched their way through 75 large pizzas and presented to judges on Sunday afternoon.

Dan Rossner, innovation expert and event judge, said: "It was a great opportunity for PA to be involved in running NASA's international Space Apps London event this year and to support an innovation programme that nurtures the growing technology talent in the UK and globally. The ideas and results the teams produced over a sleep deprived weekend were very impressive. It was a hard choice for the judges to pick the winners, but those chosen as winners showed a high degree of creativity in addressing the NASA challenges as well as planning how to continue projects well beyond the event".

After much deliberation, the judges announced their winners as SS Cornelius (a ‘selfie satellite’ for taking pictures of key moments of space missions) and The Great British Space Race (a social fitness application where awards are given for doing an equivalent amount of exercise as an astronaut or mission distance and educating people about space missions).

The participants voted to hand the People's Choice award to Come Fly With Me, an application for showing the view from the air of an in-flight plane over its current location, complete with live weather and satellite imagery.

As well as winning a tour of Inmarsat’s Satellite Control Centre, the three winning teams will now go forward to global judging, where NASA will choose five of the best projects from around the world as Global Winners. If our teams are successful, they’ll be invited to witness a rocket launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – something our SkySnapper team greatly enjoyed last year.

Follow @SpaceAppsLondon and PA’s @GoDigitalPA on Twitter to see more photos and updates from the weekend, and to follow the teams as they progress through global judging.

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Space Aps volunteers
PA volunteers at Space Apps
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Space Aps participants
Participants at Space Apps

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