Chile hosts world’s largest International SpaceApps event

Over 130 people gathered in Santiago to participate in NASA’s worldwide hackathon challenge.

Neither sleep nor hunger kept the 137 Chilean participants of the 2nd Annual International SpaceApps Challenge event from completing their mission to work 48 hours straight on a series of projects that benefited space exploration and everyday life.

The Santiago event, which took place at the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, was just one of more than 80 SpaceApps Challenge events that took place around the world over the weekend of April 20-21. A NASA-led project, the SpaceApps Challenge included 52 mini-projects that participants designed innovative solutions for through creative collaboration.

More than 9,000 people worldwide of all ages and backgrounds participated in this year’s event, breaking the record for the largest hackathon in history, according to NASA. Challenges ranged from “Design a piece of jewelry or wearable art that celebrates 55 Cancri E, a super-awesome carbon-rich exoplanet”, to “Create an app that would allow observers of a meteor shower to trace the location, color and size of the shooting star.”

The opening day of Saturday, April 20 was pleasantly surprising for the organizers of Santiago’s SpaceApps Challenge, who learned that Chile’s event was the largest gathering in the world with 137 participants. This large group was divided into small teams, and in total, the Santiago gathering tackled 32 unique challenges.

For Santiago’s Lead SpaceApps Challenge Organizer Marcelo Aliaga, the high level of Chilean interest in the event stems in part from the country’s position as the global center for astronomy research.

“I think the community in Chile is serious about being the window to the universe,” Aliaga told This is Chile. “The opening of ALMA consolidated Chile’s position as the best place in the world to capture data about the universe, which gives us an unsuspected power in the development of areas such as astro-computation, big data, and initiatives that foster their development. What we saw this weekend, we think it is a reflection of a rising generation that cares about what is happening out there in the beyond.”

Aliaga added that at the core of the SpaceApps Challange’s appeal lies questions that are universally fascinating – not just for Chileans, but for people around the world.

“More than for just participants in Chile, the SpaceApps Challenge is appealing to every human being able to remake the classic questions we are still pondering – where did we come from, who are we, where are we going – which were present in each challenge. That’s the attraction, that which connects us to the experience of being human and thinking about our future together.”

On Sunday April 21, all of the projects designed at Santiago’s SpaceApps Challenge were presented to a series of judges, who had the tough task of selecting a winning project for each of four categories: Software, Hardware, Citizen Science, and Data Visualization.

In addition, the team that took first place in the “ALMA Challenge” won a trip to the observatory, and the overall two best  teams won the chance to represent Chile in next round of competition against SpaceApps Challenge projects from around the world.

By Liz Rickles