NASA has published the list of challenges that local teams from Reno and 137 other cities around the world get to choose from as they participate in the International Space Apps Challenge—the world’s largest hackathon—taking place Apr 10-12.

There are 35 challenges spread across this year’s four themes: Outer Space, Earth, Humans and Robotics. Each local team picks one or more challenges and tries to come up with the best solutions. The annual hackathon is part of a NASA initiative for sharing and commercializing knowledge gained through space exploration, but such technology transfers work both ways. While local teams may come up with commercially viable product ideas, NASA is also crowdsourcing some problem-solving that could lead to improvements in space travel and exploration.

If you are interested in contributing to the Space Apps Reno effort, check out the complete list of challenges at Teams need to pick challenges that are a good fit for local expertise and resources. Space Apps Reno organizer and past participant Joe Chavez said examples of the 2015 challenges that might be a good fit for Reno include:

  • Space-y Sounds. Develop an interactive tool that leverages NASA’s huge store of audio files containing all the expected and unexpected sounds recorded on space missions. Possible applications range from arts and entertainment to science and technology. The tool might even decode hidden meanings that NASA has missed.
  • SpaceGlove. Use wearable devices to come up with new techniques for controlling computer applications, including hand and arm gestures and voice inputs. The idea is to change the human-machine interface, and thus improve the way crews interact with computer systems during space missions.
  • Transient Watch. Develop a mobile phone app that provides astronomers with “daily news” on the most interesting current behaviors in the transient high-energy sky. The app will analyze publicly available data spread across such sources as NASA, the European Space Agency and the Japanese Space Agency, and provide a simple and visually pleasing front end that highlights the most active sources of x-ray and gamma-ray activity.

We will kick off the selection process by reviewing the challenges at Space Apps Reno’s organizational meeting, to be held Mar. 26 at 5 p.m. in the Fleischman Planetarium on the UNR campus. Then, actual challenge selections will be made and challenge-specific teams will begin to form at our Space Apps Reno mixer on Apr. 8. We will finalize these teams on the morning of Apr. 11, just prior to the beginning of the hackathon .

Both the Apr. 8 mixer and the two-day Space Apps Challenge hackathon Apr. 11-12 will take place at The Reno Collective, 100 N. Arlington, Suite 100 (corner of Arlington and First), Reno. The challenges can benefit from a broad range of skills, and are not just for programmers, engineers and scientists.

To join the Space Apps Reno effort and attend our organizational meeting, you must first register individually with NASA. Use the registration form at, and select Reno as your location.