Taiwanese teams shine at NASA’s international hackathon


TAIPEI, Taiwan — Participating for the first time in the world’s largest hackathon, Taiwanese teams performed well in the final round of the 2017 NASA International Space Apps Challenge, according to the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).

The three Taiwanese teams, which qualified through a preliminary national competition, were among 561 teams from 187 locations around the world competing in the final round of this year’s challenge, the AIT said in a statement Friday.

Taiwan team Space Bar won first place in the category “Best Mission Concept,” one of the five main categories in the final stage of global competition in the NASA hackathon, the AIT said, citing results released the previous day.

“Space Bar’s winning app is an easy-to-use tool to allow the public to obtain and understand landslide data by using NASA’s open data, and to contribute their own observations for use by emergency managers,” the AIT said.

The other main categories in the final included the best use of data, the best use of hardware, galactic impact and the most inspirational.

Magic Conch, another Taiwanese team, was one of the five finalists in the category of the best use of data.

Competing for the global People’s Choice Award vote, which was decided based on global online voting, “CCIT-crazy Top” finished in the top 20, the AIT said.

The first round of the 2017 NASA International Space Apps Challenge was held around the world on April 29 and 30 at 187 different locations, and projects that won first and second place and the People’s Choice Award from each location qualified to compete for global awards, the AIT said.

A total of 2,017 teams participated in the first round, including 57 in Taipei, where “Space Bar” won first place and “Magic Conch” took second, while “CCIT-crazy Top” grabbed the People’s Choice Award to qualify for the global finals.

Consisting of four university students, “CCIT-crazy Top” developed a gliding dropsonde that aims to provide a more cost-effective and reusable solution to make up for gaps in weather data collection and lower the cost of each mission.

The team hoped to improve weather forecasts by using the device to collect more weather data in the lower atmosphere, team member Patrick Wu (吳旻修) told CNA in a recent interview.

“We were surprised to learn that we won Taipei’s People’s Choice Award,” said Wu, a 21-year-old student at National Defense University’s Chung-Cheng Institute of Technology.

This year marked the first time Taipei has participated in the annual NASA challenge, which was launched in 2012.

The international hackathon is held over the course of 48 hours in cities around the world, inviting the participation of students, scientists, designers, makers, technologists and anyone enthusiastic about addressing Earth’s challenges, said the AIT, which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diplomatic relations.

The Taiwan part of the challenge was hosted by the AIT, in collaboration with Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Industrial Development Bureau, National Taiwan University and Taipei’s Department of Information Technology.