Over 200 people from Romania participated in the annual edition of the NASA SpaceApps Challenge hackathon that took place, online, simultaneously in 162 countries and territories around the world, on the weekend of October 2nd -3rd. Among the winning projects are a greenhouse to provide nutritional supplements for a mission to Mars, space exploration games, and a virtual map showing the debris orbiting the Earth.
The 200 participants are aged between 16 and 56 years old and more than 80% had a technical background. 28 teams registered in the competition. Although the event took place online in the 4 cities, the creativity marathon brought together participants from Arad, Maramures, Sibiu, Constanța, Timișoara, Bucharest, Galați, Cluj, Iași, Harghita, Prahova, Dolj, Suceava, Argeș, even Bulgaria – Sofia and the Republic of Moldova – Chisinau.
15 teams presented their projects in the final. 6 Romanian teams qualified for the international judging stage of the competition:
- Star – designed a compact greenhouse for the nutritional supplementation of a piloted mission to Mars, striving to maximize plant production in a confined space, improve diet and propose innovative solutions to the current problems of space agriculture;
- Aqualood – developed Starwalker, an educational space exploration game for 10-14-year-olds, designed to awaken teens’ interests and passion for new things, thus helping society advance.
- IoT4Nature – has designed an electronic device to ensure safe detachment from the parachute, in a way that does not harm the environment, without the shock and gunpowder generated by pyrotechnic means.
- Petru Rares Straight to Space – shared the experience they gained by launching a weather balloon in August – the plan, list of materials, lessons learned, problems and related solutions, measurements, data, and backup devices needed – to help those who want to launch a meteorological balloon.
- Dione – developed Astroknowledge, a game where participants learn about space and which also serves as a teaching tool for teachers to inspire young people and awaken within them the with a passion for space exploration;
- Hypercube – have developed a project that creates a virtual map of the globe and displays in real-time all the space debris orbiting the Earth, impacting both space travel and various aspects of life on Earth.
A special award was given to the A.M.C.G. team, from Bucharest, for their idea with potential in space – creating a website that helps NASA share information with researchers.
The members of the jury were: Ulpia Elena Botezatu, Researcher la Romanian Space Agency; Cristian Roman, Senior Editor Revista Știință și Tehnică; Fabiola Cazan, SR Manager IT la Vodafone, Gabriel Preda, Principal Data Scientist la Endava; Bogdan Niculae, Enginerring Manager la Thales; Silvia Batorii, Space Software Engineer la Thales; Cristian Dascălu, Project Initiator NASA Space Apps Challenge; Indira Abdulvoap, General Manager al Logiscool România; Ana Maria Stancu, CEO Bucharest Robots; Tudor Popescu, National Project Leader la EDISON.
“The teams impressed me with the ingenuity they employed to create innovative, efficient and engaging products. The participants showed significant execution and delivery skills, worked passionately and constantly asked for feedback for their ideas. All this gives me confidence in the future because we are obviously dealing with true talents and gifted minds, with a great understanding of the present reality and who know how to think about the future “, said Borislav Bliznatchki, Mentor, Endava.
“Innovation, collaboration, technology, creativity and diversity are the words we could use to describe the projects that participated in this year’s NASA Space Apps Challenge. It is motivating and encouraging to see so many minds working together with so much passion, and their solutions to the planet’s problems have captivated us and confirm once again that it is essential to support such projects. We are constantly investing in the young generation that creates today’s technology, especially now that Vodafone is going through a process of transformation, and we are evolving from a telecommunications company to a technology company ”, says Fabiola Cazan, Senior IT Manager, Vodafone Romania.
The solutions developed by the Romanian winning teams will be included in the international evaluation, coordinated by NASA. The winners of Space Apps will be announced in January 2022 and will be invited to present their projects to NASA (and to the space agency partners, if applicable). International winners will also be invited to visit a NASA station, together with the global organization team, the Space Apps Challenge, and witness the launch of a shuttle.
The theme of this year’s event was “The Power of Ten“, and the ten global awards are Best Use of Science, Best Use of Data, Best Use of Technology, Galactic Impact, Best Mission Concept, Most Inspirational, Best Storytelling Award (new award), Global Connection Award (new award), Art & Technology Award (new award), Local Impact Award (new award).
This year, NASA Space Apps Challenge has brought together ten space agency partners: ESA (European Space Agency), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, The Canadian Space Agency, the Australian Space Agency, the Brazilian Space Agency, the Argentine National Space Activities Commission, the Paraguayan Space Agency, the South African National Space Agency, and the Bahrain National Space Agency will be joining NASA.
NASA SpaceApps Challenge is an innovative incubation program, held annually in hubs around the world, since 2012. In 2020 Space Apps had approximately 26,000 participants, who created 2,303 projects, internationally. The full list of the 2020 hackathon finalists can be accessed here. Last year, four Romanian teams qualified for the international judging stage of the competition.
Next year’s edition, NASA SpaceApps Challenge 2022, will take place between 1 and 2 October 2022.
The official partners at this year’s event have been: Vodafone, Endava, Bosch, Thales, Grow with Google, Profi, Tradesilvania, Cloud Software Development, ROTSA, DiFine PR, Techcelerator, Growceanu, Știință și Tehnică, Space Hub.