Nicaragua has recently enjoyed international distinction as an emerging destination for tourism and retirement. Surfers, retirees, backpackers and investors have found Nicaragua to be a fascinating place to explore and soak in the natural beauty.
But what most people don’t realize is that some Nicaraguans are setting their sights much higher than the tellurian charms of the country’s beckoning landscape. Though astronomy and other celestial studies are a new field of science here, one historic event recently brought the skies much closer to Nicaragua, and a second event this month will bring Nicaraguans closer to space.
The Neil Armstrong observatory, Latin America’s first academic observatory, was inaugurated on Feb. 22 at the Pierre and Marie Curie School in Managua. Prior to that, five of their students discovered the “2012 FE52” asteroid using only their laptops.
Later this month, Nicaraguans will be stargazing again during the Hackathon II, “International Space Apps Challenge 2013,” which will be held April 20 and 21 at the Universidad Americana (UAM) in Managua.
Although the name “hackathon” might conjure up negative connotations, the reality is that it is a technology development marathon that draws on the talents and initiatives of bright-minded volunteers to find creative solutions that could have an immediate impact on the planet and space exploration. The first hackathon was held at American College in January and addressed finding solutions to domestic violence.
The International Space Apps Challenge is a global effort led by NASA. It will take place on seven continents, in 52 countries, and 75 cities, including Managua. More than 50 challenges have already been posted online by NASA, and new ones are being added—all with the goal of creating a “unified international effort” for improving life on earth and in space.
“The International Space Apps Challenge is an international mass collaboration focused on space exploration,” NASA says on its website. “The event embraces collaborative problem solving with a goal of producing relevant open-source solutions to address global needs applicable to both life on Earth and life in space.”
Some of the 50 challenges include: “Bootstrapping of the Space Industry” (Develop a game to virtually build a lunar industry through a series of “bootstrapping” stages until it becomes self-sustaining); “Catch a Meteor Tracker” (Create an app that would allow observers of a meteor shower to trace the location, color and size of the shooting star); “Dark Side of the Moon” (Explore the far side of the moon using available images and data by creating web applications and 3D-printed objects); “Wish You Were Here” (Develop a compelling representation of weather on Mars); “Tour of the Moon” (Enable humans worldwide to take an interactive tour of the Moon); “Listening to the Stars” (Recreate sounds of space using Earth-bound objects); “Backyard Poultry Farmer” (Create a poultry management system for backyard farmers).
The International Space Apps Challenge will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 20 in the central auditorium of the UAM. Registration is preferred online, but is also available the day of the event. Participants are encouraged to bring their own laptops, form teams during the scheduling and logistics announcements, listen to subject matter experts, and then begin developing solutions to their chosen challenge. Lunch and dinner will be included. On Sunday (sorry, no overnighters, although it is a 48-hour marathon) the challenge will continue at 10 a.m. with more developing and a lunch break. The afternoon will include presentations to the judges, awards and recognitions.
If you would like to participate in this free and creative event, just register online: http://spaceappschallenge.org/