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PA OPINION

Unlocking ingenuity with NASA Space Apps 2019

Ingenuity has the power to build a positive human future in a technology-driven world. But how do you unlock ingenuity? In our experience, it comes down to nurturing human optimism, empowering teams to innovate, building evolving organisations and seeking inspiration in surprising places. And that’s why we hosted this year’s NASA Space Apps Challenge in Belfast.

Space Apps is the world’s biggest hackathon, promoting collaboration, innovation, diversity and ingenuity - values that NASA shares with us. Locally, the hackathon draws people from diverse cultural and technical backgrounds, giving them a chance to learn, create and build new skills, abilities and networks. The event provides a place to come together, collaborate and focus, unlocking ingenuity as teams solve challenges on Earth and in space.

Communication was key to success, with teams constantly helping each other out rather than doggedly competing. The cross-pollination of ideas and expertise ensured different viewpoints surfaced outstanding ideas.

But there is a competitive element to Space Apps and only two teams from the Belfast event could go on to compete against top ideas from around the world. Our judges chose:

Fresher Environments for Marine Animals (FEMA)

This team of aeronautical engineering students looked to tackle the Trash Cleanup challenge with an innovative product to deal with sites such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

They devised a solar powered pontoon with an onboard cleaning device that takes in microplastics and separates them from the water so they can be collected and brought to shore. They used CAD to mock up the schematics and provided in-depth information in their presentation.

Aspire

This team of software engineering students decided to address the Chasers of the Lost Data challenge with machine learning techniques that could fill gaps in mission data.

They used various training models to increase their programme efficiency to 88.23 per cent from 30.94 per cent in around 24 hours. They organised themselves in an agile team and assigned tasks through a Kanban board.

An inspiring weekend of unlocking ingenuity

The inspiring work of the teams at the NASA Space Apps Challenge in Belfast was incredible. In just two days, they’d identified the opportunities in complex challenges, worked together and created viable solutions. It shows that optimistic people, empowered to innovate and with the chance to find inspiration in surprising places, can achieve enduring results.

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