The Space Apps Challenge is an international event coordinated by NASA. A 48 hour long hackathon, it is focused on space exploration and international collaboration to produce open-source solutions to address global needs applicable to both life on Earth and life in space.
On April 11&12 teams of tech enthusiasts competed and collaborated to contribute with innovative alternatives to a list of 25 global challenges in four areas: Earth, Outer Space, Humans and Life in Space, making use of open data supplied by NASA missions. These challenges range from designing your own asteroid mission to mapping of drinking water resources.
133 cities around the world joined this event that encourages to cooperate and work together, and nearly a thousand projects were presented. Local hosts judge the project at each location based on creativity, impact, sustainability, presentation and product solution. Up to two of them can be nominated and advance to a global judging round. Besides, each event can pick one People's Choice nomination so everybody can vote for their favorites via social media among the top 25. See the global nominations here.
In this global round, it's time for NASA to select five winners in each of the five finalist categories: Best Mission Concept, Best Use of Hardware, Best Use of Data, Most Inspiring and Galactic Impact. Finalists must upload to a public repository any code developed for the app and have to prepare a short description and record a one minute video about the project.
Space Apps Zaragoza
Zaragoza held one of the many events that took place over Europe. Libelium and Cooking Hacks sponsored this Space Apps Challenge, and contributed by providing five Arduino Uno that were handed over to the winners.
It was the second edition of Space Apps Zaragoza. Last year was really successful, with over 80 participants, and even one of the teams, OpenCuriosity, made it to the international final (read about it here). The place was filled with students, young professionals and techies.
The day started with a talk on cosmic radiation followed by a presentation of ideas and teams. Then it was time for every team to work on their apps. Another talk on the Space Race on the evening and after that, everybody kept working until late at night. On the second day, all the teams hurried to finish their projects and present them to the jury.
A total of eight teams presented their projects, which were focused on various themes: water management, wearables, forest mapping... Here you have the two picks for the international round and the people's choice app: Eye of Horus, Cropper and WaterImprove.
Eye of Horus
The first project to be nominated was Eye of Horus, an app developed by Makeroni team that meets the challenge of Space Wearables: to design wearable clothing that could help engineers, technicians on earth and researchers and astronauts in space.
It is a open source platform that enables the user to interact with objects via eye-tracking. It includes a wireless system that evaluates eye pupil images under infrared illumination, and a frontal camera that lets the system know where you are looking at.
The prototype is powered by a lithium battery that supplies 5V through a DC/DC converter. It includes a VoCore, a coin-sized Linux computer with WiFi that runs OpenWrt, a small USB endoscope camera and IR leds to illuminate the eyes. The pupil absorb IR light, resulting in a dark spot in the images recorded by the camera. A bandpass filter was attached to the camera to block the non-infrared frequencies of light.
As a complement for this prototype, a Light beacon (Infrared Flashlight) device was designed so the system can communicate with other devices. When the eye tracking system detects that you are looking at the IR light from the beacon the computer sends a turn on/off request. The beacon receives this request through a bluetooth low energy module (BLE) and, in this case, turns on and off a lamp with a relay control module. They also 3D printed the casing for the system.
Luis MartĂn, from Cooking Hacks, and JosĂŠ Luis Berrocal, from Libelium's IT Department, are part of this team. We are proud of you guys!
Find out all about Eye of Horus here.
The second nominee was Cropper, an app developed by five students of the University of Zaragoza to solve the Crop Alert Challenge: a mobile/web app that provides crowd-sourced data so it helps growers to deal with pests and diseases in their crops.
In their own words it is a real-time collaborative social-network made for farmers who want to alert to other farmers of dangerous events, like floods, storms, plagues, diseases, etc. Users are able to add an event or report diseases in their crops so the data is represented on a world map. You can subscribe to a specific area in order to receive an alert with any incident related to it.
Follow Cropper's development on their blog and Twitter account.
People's Choice: WaterImprove
This team, which includes an economist and a geologist, attemps to solve the Clean Water Mapping Challenge. They made an app that represents drinking water quality anywhere in the world so you can visualize data on a map in real time. Read about their project here.
The results of the global judging process will be announced in May, we will keep you posted on it.