For the third year in a row, Kathmandu joined more than 130 cities across the globe during the 2015 NASA SpaceApps Challenge. Sixty-three youth participants from diverse backgrounds, including 11 women, formed 14 groups to take on challenges that address environmental issues during the two-day event, held 11–12 April.
The event was jointly organized by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) under the framework of SERVIR-Himalaya and YoungInnovations, in collaboration with Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC). It was supported by Women Leaders in Technology (WLIT), Karkhana, CSIT Association of Nepal (CSITAN), Robotics Association of Nepal (RAN), and Games & Apps for Mobile Education Studios.
This year the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) issued over 25 challenges in four areas: earth, outer space, humans, and robotics. In addition to these challenges, participants were also able to choose from challenges developed to address local environmental issues. Of the 14 groups, three took on a local challenge, with one of them emerging as the winner.
Team Smart Energy Meter was named the winner of the International SpaceApps Challenge in Kathmandu. The team developed an Arduino-based energy monitoring device that uses an electrical current sensor to read analog data, which is then converted to a digital value and uploaded to a database, which can be accessed through an Android application.
Team Clean Water Mapping took home the second prize, with an application prototype used for locating unidentified water sources through crowdsourcing. Once the app is fully developed, it is expected to contribute to improved water resource monitoring.
In third place was Team Tracking and Sensing through Android Robotics, which tackled the global challenge ‘Sensor Yourself’. Their Android robot tracks nearby objects using on-board sensors present in an Android smart phone. Prospective applications of this platform range from navigating mountains for waste disposal to tracking geological artifacts, scanning atmospheric regions, and possibly assisting in the search for extraterrestrial objects.
Based on the results of a short Facebook voting campaign, Team Astroact walked away with the People’s Choice Award. Working on the global challenge ‘Visualize the Asteroid Skies’, the team built an app that simulates the position of planets and potentially hazardous asteroids and predicts when they will pass near the earth.
Cash prizes of NPR 30,000, NPR 20,000, and NPR 10,000 were awarded to the winner, first runner-up and second runner-up, respectively. Since the winning team solved a local challenge, it is not eligible to compete in the global competition. However, they will refine their app with support from the SERVIR-Himalaya Initiative of ICIMOD.
The second and third place teams, Team Clean Water Mapping and Team Tracking and Sensing through Android Robotics, have been nominated for global judging. Team Astroact will also compete for the global People’s Choice Award.