Local teams to tackle astronomy and meteorology problems in 2-day hackathon

RENO, Nev., April 10, 2015—Reno’s participants in NASA’s 2015 International Space Apps Challenge have come up with two unique astronomy and meteorology challenges to solve during the worldwide event this weekend, April 11-12.

In its fourth year, the Space Apps Challenge has evolved into the world’s largest hackathon, with 138 cities around the globe fielding teams in 2015.  NASA provides a list of suggested challenges—this year in the categories of Outer Space, Earth, Humans and Robotics.  Participants can also come up with their own projects, as the Reno group elected to do.

“Teams have only two days to solve challenges, so projects need to leverage local expertise, resources and interests,” said Reno Space Apps Challenge organizer Joe Chavez.  “Astronomy and meteorology are good fits for the Reno area with its high-desert vantage point for star gazing, great planetarium, and extreme weather variations.”

The Reno Space Apps Challenge group will split into two teams, with each focusing on one of the two challenges:  “Biggest Little Solar System” and “G.E.O.

Biggest Little Solar System is envisioned as an educational tool that uses a geocaching-meets-scavenger-hunt approach to engage people in the subject of astronomy.  Employing the Sun in the Fleishmann Planetarium as a scale model and reference, the team will place representations of the eight planets and Pluto around the region (locally, this model has Pluto orbiting through Fernley).  The team will also develop supporting technology that people can use to find the “planets.”

A beacon on each solar system member interacts with the mobile app, registering visitors who get close enough.  At the same time, the app taps data gathered during NASA’s space explorations to deliver the appropriate educational material.  The tool can be deployed in any region as a game, with an award going to the first person to travel through our entire solar system and visit all its major participants.

The second Reno Space Apps challenge, G.E.O., is based on the open source version of the Tempescope ambient weather display.  Contained in a clear box, a Tempescope receives meteorological forecasting data and simulates tomorrow’s weather conditions.

The original Tempescope was conceived as a home appliance displaying local weather forecasts.  However, a Tempescope fed the appropriate meteorological data could also display weather forecasts for remote locations, including other planets.

“In part, NASA is using the Space Apps Challenge to crowdsource problem-solving to the hackathon participants,” Chavez explains.  “NASA provides data and tools, and the hackathon participants bring fresh insights and capabilities to the problem-solving process.”

Space Apps Challenge teams include engineers, scientists, dreamers, designers, coders, makers, developers and storytellers.  Individuals who want to participate in the Reno Space Apps Challenge must first register directly with NASA at https://2015.spaceappschallenge.org/register and then choose the Reno location.

Meeting details for the Reno group:

Saturday and Sunday, April 10 and 11
The Reno Collective
100 N. Arlington St., Suite 100
Reno, NV  89501

Reno Space Apps Challenge participants will benefit from The Reno Collective’s new very-high-speed fiber Internet connection, which was recently installed by Plumas-Sierra Telecommunications.


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