Space Apps Challenge 2013

I participated in the NASA-backed Space Apps Challenge (Singapore) last week, here some some reflections.

The first thing about this challenge (and practically any other hackathon) is that there is very little time. Some events discourage planning before coming down, but Space Apps specifically asked the participants to decide their project early and do some preliminary reading. Which I didn’t. ‘Cos I was busy with school and stuff. Also, I went down as an individual. So the lack of prior communication meant that we spent a good hour talking about how we are going to do things. Nonetheless, I enjoyed meeting new people, making friends, it was a fun experience. Also, despite having decided on a challenge to work on prior to the event, I was unable to form a team due to a lack of interest in the topic I chose. On hindsight, I think that I would have been able to convince people if I had some some prior research or produced a mock-up. This would show my commitment.

The challenge was not a overnight hackathon. Staying over was not mentioned, and I conveniently went home. I felt that this had some negative impacts on the final product: less time to hack, inertia the next day, context switching… In short, hackathons should really be all-nighters, that’s what makes them fun, and challenging, and unhealthy. Buy hey, it’s only once in a while right? 😉

I loved the challenges that were suggested. They were very interesting and open ended, hence we could do whatever we want. Throughout the challenge, my team had to do quite a bit of research, and I think in the end, we got more out of the challenge than what we gave to it. Shameful in a way, but brilliant.

My team won the Big Vision award, for our implementation of a website that talks about NASA’s impact on the economy, as well as effect on humanity. Our website also has a little “crowdfunding” side to it, where we allow the public to indicate interest in NASA projects, so that NASA has leverage to request for more funds.

Overall, I had a great experience: two eye-opening talks during the event, many new friends, more knowledge about NASA. I’m looking forward to next year’s Space Apps Challenge, and next time I will be more prepared.