Join the NASA International Space Apps Challenge

Join the NASA International Space Apps Challenge
21st & 22nd April
Melbourne, Canberra,
Adelaide & Sydney

The NASA International Space Apps Challenge is an international codeathon-style event that will take place over a 48 hour period in cities on all seven continents – and in space - on the weekend of 21-22 April, 2012. The event embraces collaborative problem solving with a goal of producing solutions to global challenges.

Investment in space technology has generated incredible amounts of data and resulted in the development of new technology that continues to improve life on Earth. The challenge before us is to leverage data and new technology to create practical applications that benefit humanity. Join coders, engineers, data providers and designers to develop new solutions, and win the opportunity to present your ideas to people of influence. The Australian events will encourage solutions that address regional development; climate adaptation; disaster response; and citizen science. 

Worldwide simultaneous event 21-22 April, 2012

Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide & Sydney, Australia 
San Francisco, Miami, New York & Boulder, United States
Tokyo, Japan
Jakarta, Indonesia
Exeter & Oxford, United Kingdom
Nairobi, Kenya
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Vancouver & Montreal, Canada
Tel Aviv, Israel
Istanbul, Turkey
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Lausanne, Switzerland
Stuttgart, Germany
Saniago, Chile
Bangalore, India
Dublin, Ireland
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
International Space Station
Virtual participation

Australian events:
Victorian Space Science Education Centre, 400 Pascoe Vale Rd, Strathmore (max 100 people)
Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre, ANU Mt Stromlo Observatory, Mt Stromlo (max 30 people)
Flinders University, Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century, 182 Victoria Square, Adelaide (max 15 people)
UNSW, School of Computer Science and Engineering, Building K17, Level 1 Seminar Room (max 40 people)

The Australian events will be working collaboratively throughout the weekend. They will be continuously connected via video conference and some teams will have participants in different states. Experts at each of the events will be assisting all Australian participants, as well as being available to the intenational participants. 

You can watch the event live through Ustream:

The event will also be covered by Gov 2.0 Radio. Listen to the interview with Australian Event Lead, Naomi Mathers, and Arup Digital Innovation Lead, Andrew Maher.

Concerned citizens, discipline experts, engineers, scientists, and software code developers

How it works:
Participants form teams focused on solving a particular challenge. The teams compete with other teams in Australia and around the world to utilize publicly available space technology and data to design innovative “solutions” to a predetermined series of “challenges.” Watch the following TED Talk for examples of the power of open data.

Global challenges have been set and are grouped in four broad categories

Four Australian challenges have been added to the list of global challenges.

Challenge 1: Disaster Prevention – Minimizing risk through preventative maintenance.

Satellite data is invaluable for assisting emergency services monitor and respond to natural disasters (tropical cyclones, fire, flood, etc.) but is there way that satellite data can be used to help us identify and reduce risk?

Challenge: Design and implement a tool that uses satellite data to detect potential hazards (trees growing too close to transmission power lines, vegetation type, landscape, weather…). This app could include the ability for the community to flag potential hazards.

Challenge 2: My Travel Impact

What would convince you to change your travel behaviours?  Weather?  Carbon?  This challenge aims to develop an app that provides users with information about their travel patterns, and quantifies the impact of their choices. Users could be presented with a summary of their daily trip (eg. distance travelled in the last week, the last month and the last year) and how their mode choice behaviour has impacted them (time) and the wider community.   The app could also allow users to interrogate their carbon footprint and compare this to other mode choices (eg. driving, riding and walking) and the relative savings/cost of carbon and money as a result of their choice.

Users could also be presented with historical and forecast weather data from Bureau of Meteorology, suggesting days to consider walking/cycling based on weather patterns/predictions. The app may rely on users submitting their travel data from their smart card (eg. Myki in Melbourne).

Challenge 3: Activity Sensing

How many people do you work with?  How many people are around you at any one time?  This challenge is to develop a system that senses activity in a relatively small scale location; for example a building or public space. This can use any type of fixed sensor that reveals people’s locations and densities of people, and presents the data back in a realtime visualisation, also offering an historic analysis which shows how densities change over time.  This challenge could use a variety of sensors, depending on what people have available for instance heat, pressure, sound, IP addresses, wifi hotspot activity, Bluetooth or any combination of these.

On a larger scale, this challenge could lead to assist police in estimating crowd numbers, help planners to track how many people attend an event, and help pedestrian and traffic engineers to design for changes in a public environment.

Challenge 4: Climate Adaptation – Building a Better Future

Satellite data is helping us understand our environment and how it is changing. This data is used to build climate models that help us predict what the local conditions will be in the future. Large infrastructure projects take many years to design and build, and become an integral part of our society for a long time, but how do they adapt to changing conditions? How can designers and engineers embed climate models into their design process? How can they include the community and the residents in the on-going decision making process?

At the end of the event all participants will pitch their solutions to local judges.

Geoscience Australia , the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO are Australia's pre-eminant government research bodies. All are active in the collection and use of space-based data. Most of this data is publicly available and they have identified data sets that will be useful to the participants addressing the Australian challenges. The Bureau of Meteorology has also provided temporary trial access to their GIS2WEB Service for the event. These organisations are also interested in the results of the event and will circulate the winning solutions throughout their research groups. 

Local judging:
All Australian participants will be in the running to win local prizes. Winners for the Australian challenges will be chosen from the Australian participants by judges in Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Sydney. Presentations will be shown virtually in all states. In order to be judged, all solutions developed at the event are required to be submitted to a central repository under a license that permits the free and open dissemination of the work. Challenge winners receive the opportunity to present their sollutions to the challenge sponsor and other groups of influence.

Global judging:
One week after the event, global winners will be announced for each of the four main challenge categories. Global winners will be picked by a panel of representatives from key supporting organizations around the world. Global winners receive an opportunity to discuss further development and application technologies with the challenge sponsor.

Australian Event Program*:

Saturday 21st April
9:00am Registration
9:30am Welcome and housekeeping
10:00am Introduction of subject experts (Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Sydney)
11:00am Start developing
1:00pm Lunch
6:00pm Dinner
12:00am Venue close

Sunday 22nd April
6:00am Venue open
12:00pm Lunch
2:00pm Submission deadline
2:30pm Presentations
3:30pm Judges deliberations 
4:00pm Awards and wrap up

Monday 23rd April (Melbourne only)
8:00am Video link with San Francisco for closing event

If there is sufficient interest there is a possibility that Canberra, Adelaide and Sydney might work through the night
*All times AEST

Free public wifi will be available at all events. Participants must provide their own computer and any software they wish to use. Lunch and dinner will be provided on the Saturday and lunch will be provided on the Sunday. 

Local Experts

The Australian events will be supported by a wide range of subject matter experts. These experts will support all teams in all states. We would like to thank our sponsors for providing such high calibre support.


 Chris Gerty (NASA)
I've worked within the ranks of NASA ever since attending Clarkson University for Computer Engineering (Class of '97.. please don't do the math!).  I gravitated to the field of human mission operations within the Space Shuttle and Space Station Programs, working as a flight controller and astronaut trainer in the Payloads and EVA (spacewalks) console positions.  While working in EVA, my focus was mostly on the technical system design of the US spacesuit, and I also did some crossover training on the Russian Orlan spacesuit.  About 5 years ago I left the Mission Operations Directorate to work for the Constellation Program, focusing on architectures and operational concepts for long-duration crewed missions to the Moon.  For the past year and a half have I been a part of the Open Government Initiative at NASA.  In this role we strive to increase collaboration, participation, and transparency of our Agency, by focusing equally on our technologies, policies, and culture of acceptance of new ways of doing business.  We see ourselves as an agency in "beta", constantly improving but not hiding behind a firewall, just like a great piece of new opensource software!  I've also become increasingly enamored with the Open Hardware movement.  After putting together and using our opensource 3-D printer for a few weeks, I'm really excited about the implications of participatory space exploration in the age of open hardware development.

Prof. Pascal Van Hentenryck (NICTA)
Prof Van Hentenryck is a pioneer in the field of constraint programming. He joined NICTA in 2011 to lead its Optimisation Research Group. He was previously a Professor of Computer Science at Brown University and Director of the university’s Optimisation Laboratory. Professor Van Hentenryck now leads a team of 48 staff to tackle research challenges in areas such as supply chains, smart grids, disaster recovery, computational biology and social networks.

David P Young (Arup)
David is a pedestrian and transport planner working with Arup and has over 5 years of experience, which includes 3 years as a doctorate candidate with Monash University for which he was awarded his PhD.
David’s project experience has been highlighted by a range of projects including major sporting stadia, urban precincts, transport and interchange environments as well as commercial and residential buildings.  Projects of note include: Melbourne Olympic Park Master Plan, Review of RailCorp Fixed Reader Placement Principles at stations, Melbourne Regional Rail link, Adelaide Oval Redevelopment, Sydney Opera House VAPS pedestrian planning and the Perth T1 international departures project. David is also has a developing interest in understanding the value and use of smart technology and social media as a tool community and stakeholder engagement.  This interest has resulted in active roles for David on a range of international and local design competitions and festivals.

Dean Morris (Arup)
Dean is the lead of the Arup Project Document Control team in Melbourne, and helped redefine Document Management Guidelines for the Australasian Region. Dean is helping to present clients with interactive data visualisation in line with web standards and new media trends, aiming to push creative boundaries. He works closely with project managers, project teams, IT and marketing specialists and clients in a strategic way to ensure tools are delivered on time and on budget. Dean is able to create engaging and intuitive reports and visualisations for clients and has a sound, reliable knowledge of multimedia and its usage. Dean has worked closely with GIS Specialists and Planning Engineers to create animations that can be viewed on any device, for projects where development of interactive tools may have been inhibited by the budget or time.

Ben Cooper-Woolley (Arup)
Ben is a Senior GIS Specialist based in the Perth office. Ben joined Arup in February 2007 and has previously been based in the Cardiff and London offices. He has worked on a wide range of projects across the globe gaining valuable experience in different sections of the firm. Ben has a strong technical background and is responsible for providing the infrastructure to allow flexible GIS based solutions for non experienced users, often through web based interactive maps and mobile applications. He is a highly experienced user of ESRI ArcGIS and MapInfo and a skilled developer in FME, Python, Quest 3D and various formats of spatial databases. Ben can leverage the power of the Adobe Creative Suite, particularly Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Flash/Flex to better enable data visualisation and presentation.


Roger Franze (ANU Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre)
Roger is the Technical Program Manager for Astronomy and Space programs at the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA). Roger specialises in space training and space systems engineering. He has been active in the European and then the Australian space engineering industries for over 30 years. A graduate of Curtin University in Western Australia, he has worked with British Aerospace, Space & Communications (UK) and was involved with the construction and launch of seven commercial communications satellites. In Australia, he worked with Auspace Limited on several national programs including the Endeavour Ultraviolet Telescope, the Southern Launch Vehicle, the ARIES commercial Hyper-spectral remote sensing satellite and the still orbiting Advance Along Track Scanning Radiometer (AATSR) instrumentation.



Tisham Dhar (Aerometrex Australia)
My expertise lies in C++ and Java based geospatial and remote sensing data processing, as well as OpenGL based 3D rendering. I have participated in a range of open source projects including NASA WorldWind, GDAL, Geoserver, Ossimplanet and Opticks. Last year I worked with CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research to render large NetCDF datasets in WorldWind, we started a project in collaboration with NASA entitled iGlobe. I also assisted in the deployment of the Australia-wide 30m SRTM DEM in collaboration with CSIRO Land and Water and GA. My current position involves 3D point cloud generation using structure from motion techniques. I can provide expert advice on data processing and rendering aspects in this context. From a theoretical perspective I am currently completing a PhD in SAR remote sensing of vegetation, working mostly with space-borne sensors, if there is any interest in SAR data processing/simulations I can provide advice.


Bob Buxton (Science 21)
Bob has been a science coordinator, school counsellor and teacher of primary and secondary science, as well as chemistry and physics in metropolitan schools.  He has a strong interest in environmental science and management, and has been involved in a number of programs to promote innovation in science teaching. Bob has worked at the Science 21 Centre since January 2010 as a project officer. He is currently as the project officer for project21. Project21 provides Year 11 and 12 students with the opportunity to complete the SACE Research project by undertaking an Earth Observation mission. This will be using both satellite and airborne sensors to gather data needed to answer specific research questions posed by the students. This project is made possible by a generous grant from the Australian Space Research Program.

Australian Sponsors and Supporters:

This event is possible thanks to the support of NASA, and all the international supporters. In Australia we would like to thank the following organisations:  

Department of Industry Innovation Science Research and Tertiary Education
“The International Space Apps Challenge is a fantastic opportunity for individuals around the world to create new ways to use space-derived data to save lives, transform industries, and connect us more deeply with our world. Space applications technology underpins critical sectors such as navigation, communications, emergency management, agriculture and climate science." Dr Michael Green, General Manager, Innovation and Space Branch, Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education

Space Policy Unit

Space Industry Innovation Council
“NASA’s global initiative creates an excellent opportunity to communicate in an Australian context the value of space to a wider audience, including local communities. The problem-solving approach to the International Space Apps Challenge will demonstrate the added value that can be delivered when users and developers work together to create informed specification of major societal challenges and collaborative approaches to their solution. Given that the Space Council has recently suggested a project to identify the priorities of regional end-users for information in relation to climate change adaptation and the relevant space-derived earth observation data required over the medium term, the goals of the Space Apps Challenge and those of our Space Council are quite complementary." Dr Rosalind Dubs, Chair, Space Industry Innovation Council

Victorian Space Science Education Centre
Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre
Flinders University Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century
University of New South Wales, School of Computer Science and Engineering


“Arup is excited to be involved and support the NASA Space Apps Challenge. Our firm invests in innovation and we are constantly thinking of new ways to work across many disciplines. The idea that we shape a better world is central to the way we work, and we share the goal of NASA Space Apps Challenge to create tools and solutions which will make life in space – and on earth – better!” Andrew Maher, Leader, Digital Innovation, Arup



National ICT Australia
“NICTA is delighted to sponsor the 2012 NASA Space Applications Challenge. As Australia’s major Information and Communication  Technology (ICT) research centre, we are tackling some of Australia’s major challenges. Australia experiences its share of natural disasters and disaster management is one of NICTA’s priorities. NICTA is developing technology that provides government agencies with real time analysis of anticipated disasters and tools to respond to disasters when they occur. Our goal is to improve preparedness for natural disasters and to minimize the loss of life and economic impact of such events. NICTA’s involvement in the NASA Challenge is to demonstrate how ICT, and Australian expertise, is critical in dealing with such terrible events. We look forward to working with students and researchers in Australia an around the world to showcase how expertise and people can come together to achieve good things for humanity.”
Professor Pascal van Hentenryck, Research Group Manager, National ICT Australia (NICTA)


Geoscience Australia
Bureau of Meteorology
Canon Information Systems Research Australia
Engineers Australia National Committee for Space Engineering
Australian Youth Aerospace Association
Aerion Technologies

As well as our sponsors and supporters this event wouldn't be possible without a huge amount of work from our state leads and volunteers. In particular a huge thank you goes to:

Canberra lead: Lyle Roberts
Adelaide lead: Sumen Rai
Sydney lead: Brad Hall
Volunteer co-ordinator: Stratos Patsikatheodorou
Facebook and Twitter co-ordinator: Cynthia Chen
Nick Mason-Smith and Patrick Sunter

How to get involved:
Register and develop a solution
Join us as a national sponsor (please contact Naomi Mathers
Set a challenge or provide access to data
Register as a volunteer (please register with the Australian Youth Aerospace Association)
Spread the word. Download a flyer1 / flyer2

Important dates:
Registrations open - now (register early to be matched with a team and a data provider)
Volunteer registration deadline - 10th April
Local organisers contact registered participants and start forming teams - 9th April
Initial team lists and data requests presented to data providers - 11th April
Registrations close - 18th April
International Space Apps Challenge - 21st & 22nd April
Local winners announced - 22nd April
Global winners announced - 30th April (TBC)

More information:
More information is available on the International Space Apps Challenge website.
Updates on the Australian website will be posted on the VSSEC website.
Follow the International Space Apps Challenge on Twitter @intlspaceapps #spaceapps
Follow the Australian events on Twitter @auspaceapps
Review the International Space Apps Background Presentation
Contact Naomi Mathers