Taiwan to launch first NASA Int’l Space Apps Challenge in 2017

Taiwan to kick off its first NASA International Space Apps Challenge for coding teams aged 15 and above

A person dressed as an astronaut promoting NASA Space Apps Challenge in Taiwan.

A person dressed as an astronaut promoting NASA Space Apps Challenge in Taiwan. (By Taiwan News)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News)—Taiwan will kick off its first NASA International Space Apps Challenge from April 20-30, 2017, at National Taiwan University (NTU), announced American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Public Diplomacy Section Chief Joseph Bookbinder at a press conference at the American Innovation Center, Tuesday.

The global 2017 NASA International Space Apps Challenge is one of the world's largest hackathons with participants from more than 161 cities worldwide, said Bookbinder. About 160 teams around the world joined the hackathon in 2016.

Registrations for NASA's event in Taiwan are open from April 5-16, 2017 for app coding groups comprised of three to five members above the age of 15.

The top four winning teams of the NASA hackathon competition will get a chance to visit the space research center headquartered in Washington DC, and watch up close a live rocket launch.

Top prize money for first to third place teams are NT$80,000 (US$2,619), NT$60,000, and NT$40,000, respectively. A special award of NT$20,000 will also be given to the most popular solution.

Intel will also provide special prize money worth NT$150,000 to winners of the hackthon, while IBM will provide two internship opportunities.

Meanwhile, Microsoft offered the top three teams of the NASA hackathon competition opportunity to become seed teams at its Global Business Bar, said Vincent Shih, Assistant General Counsel, GM, Corporate and External and Legal Affairs at the company's Taipei branch.

A special NT$10,000 award will be set aside for top performing female code teams, a move to encourage more women to participate in the coding industry. The science and engineering sector remains predominated by men.

“There are few women coders in Taiwan," said Jiun-Huei Wu (吳俊輝), Professor of the Department of Physics and Institute of Astrophysics at NTU.

“The disproportion of women to men ratio at Taiwan's National Space Organization (NSPO) for instance can be as high as 1:7,” said Huang Chen-Yung (黃成勇) of NSPO.

Participants can use NASA's open data, and resources provided by participating sponsors, such as Intel processors Genuino 101, Intel® Edison Compute Module and IBM Bluemix cloud platforms to develop creative solutions to combat climate change, water management, natural disasters and other pressing issues.

"Intel will sponsor each team at the hackathon US$100-600, and grant free access to our cloud services," said Deborah Yen, Corporate Affairs at Intel's office in Taiwan.

Some of NASA's globally open data include earth science data collected from 18 satellites orbiting the earth, said Wu.

The main themes for this year's NASA hackathon include earth science basedThe Earth and Us", "Planetary Blues related to water management, “Warning! Danger Ahead!” that address natural disasters and pollutions, and lastly "Our Ecological Neighborhood" that studies existing ecological systems to understand life on Earth better.

Bookbinder said it was unclear whether the hackathon solutions would be used by NASA in its future science projects.

Last year, Taiwanese app development company Akubic (誠映團隊) won US$10,000 at the annual Fishackathon event organized by the U.S. State Department with their Great Lakes Savior solution to save the world's depleting fish stocks.

Akubic CEO Ge Shi-Hao’s (葛世豪) success at the Fishackathon laid the foundation for NASA's International Space Apps Challenge launch in Taiwan, said Wei-Bin Lee (李維賓), chief of Taipei's Department of Information Technology.

The 2017 NASA International Space Apps Challenge is organized by AIT, Taiwan's Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), NTU, and Taipei's Department of Information Technology.

Partners of the hackathon include Amazon Web Services, Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信), Discovery Channel, Foundation for Women's Rights Promotion and Development (台灣國家婦女館), Scientific American Magazine, Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914), and NSPO.