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Smartphone satellite wins NASA Space Apps Challenge

Satellite built from smartphone wins NASA Space Apps Challenge


Figuring out how to convert a smartphone into a micro satellite in just 48 hours has won a team of four students top honours at New Zealand’s only International NASA Space Apps Challenge, hosted by AUT University and the US Embassy.

The winning team (product development and mechatronics students Zach Warner, Scott Wilson and David Tan from Massey University and Erlis Kllogjri from the University of Auckland), worked on the PhoneSat: Convert Your Smartphone Into a Satellite challenge.

The runners up were a team of AUT University and University of Auckland computer and mathematical sciences students who created a ‘tycoon style’ asteroid mining game, in response to the Asteroid Prospector challenge.

Both teams will submit a 30 second video of their solutions to NASA for global judging.

The AUT event on 12 and 13 April was one of almost 100 simultaneous ‘codeathons’ around the world where teams had 48 hours to tackle challenges posed by NASA. The student teams were mentored by academics from their universities, with the Executive Director of KiwiSpace Foundation Mark Mackay providing additional mentoring and encouraging social media activity by teams.

NASA Space Apps is based around the idea of crowdsourcing innovation to solve challenges that relate to both space exploration and social needs. Solutions could include mobile applications, software, hardware, data visualisation and platform solutions.

The 40 challenges offered in 2014 represented NASA’s current mission priorities and were organised into five themes: Earth Watch, Technology in Space, Human Spaceflight, Robotics and Asteroids. The challenges included: designing clothing and accessories for space travellers, converting a smartphone into a satellite, designing a network of robotic telescopes to track potentially dangerous asteroids and creating tools to help communities prepare for coastal inundation.

The three other teams that took part this year attempted the Space Wearables: Fashion Designer to Astronauts (highly commended), Spaceveggies and Where on Earth challenges.

The Auckland judges were: US Consul General Jim Donegan, GM Solutions & Marketing at Alcatel-Lucent Richard Fraser and CEO of the New Zealand Technology Industry Association Candace Kinser.

For more information about the International Space Apps Challenge, including the challenges: http://spaceappschallenge.org

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