3 winners of Dublin NASA Space Apps hackathon revealed

3 May 2016

Scene from the Dublin NASA Space Apps Challenge. Image via Baily Labs/Twitter

The recent NASA Space Apps Challenge, a global hackathon for developing space and Earth technologies, has produced three national winners, with projects including an astronaut sleeping bag, asteroid analyser and a land-monitoring app.

The NASA Space Apps Challenge is one of the few moments in the year when anyone with an interest in space or advanced technologies can gather together in person and online for a hackathon and develop something that could one day make it into future deep space missions aboard NASA spacecraft.

With hackathons held across dozens of locations from 22-24 April, Dublin, and more specifically Baily Labs in Dún Laoghaire, saw Ireland’s brightest and most creative types putting their heads together in Dublin for the first time, with the event having been held in Cork the previous year.

IoT sleeping bag for better sleep in space

With each hackathon contributing two teams to compete in NASA’s later global selection round, five of the best teams from across the world will eventually be chosen to pay a visit to NASA and watch one of its rockets take off.

After much deliberation from the local judges, two teams were eventually selected from those who took part, those being Drift Off and Eagle Eye, with a third team, Avenge the Dinosaurs, being selected as the people’s choice nominee.

Drift Off is a four-person team of Clodagh Connell, Kris Vanhoutte, Stevie Percy and Jose Dominguez that has developed a smart sleeping bag that aims to give astronauts a much better night’s sleep aboard spacecraft.

From irrigation to asteroid tracking

By pairing technology within the sleeping bag with a smart headband worn by the astronaut that charts physical and emotional health, the project could help those struggling to sleep in space rest that bit easier.

The second project, Eagle Eye, developed by Shane Hamilton, Suzy Kell and Lye Ogunsanya, developed a prototype for a mobile app that provides pastoralists communities with information on land monitoring, including water availability and grassland, and assists communities with networking.

Eagle Eye

The final winner, Shane Carty, won for his project called Avenge the Dinosaurs, which aims to visualise asteroid impacts over the last 1000 years, as well as help raise awareness of the threat by showing just how often asteroids impact.

Speaking of her team’s success, Drift Off’s project leader, Clodagh Connell, said: “When I first heard about the NASA Space Apps challenge, it caught my attention straight away.

“Even though my background is not in computer science or engineering, I felt I had a lot to bring to the table with my experience in design.

“Hackathons are a great opportunity to challenge yourself and meet like-minded people, and I would definitely encourage others, in particular, women, to partake in this one next year”.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic