International Space Apps Challenge
Over the weekend of the 21-22 April over sixty people came together at The Met Office for The International Space Apps challenge set up by NASA.
This truly international hackathon type event involved over 2,000 people in 25 locations across the world and 1 location whizzing around it, namely the international space station (ISS).
If you think that's cool, it was.
The basic idea was that a number of challenges were crowd sourced that use space data gathered by NASA and that data is then put to some use. In Exeter there was the added dimension of being able to access Met Office weather data as well.
The challenge I decided to work on was call Predict the Sky and was a perfect mash-up of space and weather data. The idea was to give users the ability to not only know what was about to happen in the night sky above their location but also to tell them if the weather would allow them to see it. Particularly useful in cloudy Britain.
I have to say that the group of eight people that came together around this idea were great and we gelled immediately and got straight to work. By the end of the weekend we had functional iOS, Android and web Apps pulling weather data and ISS and Hubble space data and mashing it up to user locations. Anyone who knows what is involved in making this happen will know that doing all that in 48 hours is pretty darn good.
There were a number of other challenges happening at The Met Office too. Hazard Map team were taking data from social media feeds relating to natural or man made disasters and overlaying that in a graphical form on a world map - think temperature weather map but rather for hazards. Growers Nation were producing an app to give people information on what they could grow at any given location based on soil, climate and weather data. We love Data team produce some amazingly fun mash-ups between space data and physical electronics. They produced a wave machine that sent ripples down the water course running through the main indoor street area of the Met Office (yes the Met Office building is amazing) when the ISS flew overhead. They also came up with an idea to produce an over-sized pollen spore that changed colour according to the pollen forecast for the next day so allergy sufferers could get warning to increase medication or whatever.
And then there was Jon Spooner from the Unlimited-Space Agency who's aim was to hack his way into space over the weekend. An amazingly fun guy who wore a bright orange space suit all weekend. Find out how he got on via this storify. Hopefully very soon he will kind of actually get to space via a Met Office weather balloon - good luck Jon!
Nick Skytland from NASA who was at the Met Office on the Saturday has blogged about 100+ reasons #spaceapps made a difference which gives you an idea of how much was achieved in 48 hours.
The Met Office team were brilliant and so to were the NASA guys. If this type of event happens again and I sincerely hope it does then you really ought to come along. Obviously a hack day needs developers/programmers but it also needs designers, organisers, thought leaders, activists, agitators and people with specialist knowledge in their fields.
I will bring you news as I hear it about any future events coming Exeter's way.