As a proud Canadian and lifelong space enthusiast, Deploy Solutions Founder Nick Kellett recently took the opportunity to present at the Canadian Space Society’s Annual Space Summit — Canada’s foremost space science, research and technology conference.
Nick’s presentation, “Space Apps in Canada: 2020 and Beyond”, gave conference attendees an overview of Space Apps hackathons, annual events which unlock the potential of space data by bringing together the innovation and creativity of passionate creators, coders, thinkers and tinkerers.
Space Apps — software applications which make use of data from space — have been growing in popularity since NASA’s first Space Apps hackathon in 2012. Local versions of the international NASA hackathon have sprung up over the years and Deploy Solutions has been instrumental as an organizer and sponsor of the annual Ottawa event.
Planned Space Apps hackathons —like so much this year— were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the unique challenges of the pandemic also presented unique opportunities to make use of space data, and a consortium of space agencies hosted an online COVID-19 Space Apps Challenge. NASA, ESA, JAXA, and CSA joined forces to host a virtual hackathon with about 15,000 participants in 150 countries taking part.
As well as the COVID-19 special edition, this year’s ‘’regular’ Space Apps Hackathon migrated online. The event organizers —NASA, ESA, JAXA, CSA and CNES— hosted a virtual hackathon in October for 26 000 participants in 150 countries — with 341 participants in Canada. This worldwide collection of participants created 2300 projects between them, addressing a range of creative and technical challenges.
Despite the challenges of hosting an online event, the Canadian version 2020 Space Apps Hackathon was a resounding success. As well as bringing together like-minded space hackers, the event also offered an opportunity to take stock and plan for future hackathons. For example, the online event lowered barriers to entry, helping to make this year’s event more diverse. Another welcome development was the first nationwide sponsorship of the event by pioneer national sponsor MDA.
As well as the successes of the virtual Space Apps Hackathon, the online setting posed some challenges. Despite synchronous and asynchronous communications channels, it was still difficult to connect with all participants. The “one-time event” structure of the Space Apps Hackathon is also challenging, with little support for ongoing processes and follow-up after events. And, even with online access lowering barriers to entry, the events still struggle with diversity and inclusion.
In his presentation, Nick Kellett addresses these questions and proposes a way for the Canadian Space Society to provide pivotal support for Canada’s Space Apps hackathons. By coordinating at a Canada-wide level, Nick argues for an annual event which promotes diversity, innovation, and STEAM skills while benefiting Canada’s space industry and the country as a whole.
Want to see the full video? You can check out Nick’s presentation below: