NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge – the world’s biggest hackathon

Since 2012, SecondMuse has been building a global hackathon for students, engineers and explorers

Client

NASA

LOCATION

global

PARTNER

Booz Allen Hamilton

Challenge

How to re-engage earthlings in a world where the private industry can launch rocket ships and rocket scientists are launching startups.

Why we love this challenge

NASA's wealth of data allows us to create massive hackathons that bring together aspiring engineers.

Outcome

200 cities across the world simultaneously access NASA data and build APIs, products and agency integrations over the course of a weekend.

Impact

SecondMuse engaged and educated 10,000 engineers and students to show them the beauty of STEM and exploration.

With a wealth of government data and a desire to fuel entrepreneurship, improve transparency, create opportunities, drive economic growth, and improve the lives of citizens from around the world, NASA collaborated with SecondMuse to create the original International Space Apps Challenge in 2012. The approach was to prioritize the challenges most worth solving, build a platform to engage a large, diverse group of participants around the challenge, incentivize them through collaboration to develop a solution, and then let the best ideas rise to the top naturally.

For the first Space Apps Challenge in 2012, our focus was strategizing how to operationalize this event. For the next challenge in 2013, SecondMuse focused more deeply on challenge refinement and developing an exceptional set of more than 50 technical challenges. Since 2013, SecondMuse has led the Space Apps Global Organizing Team alongside NASA, helping NASA to tap into the community effectively, from understanding community needs, engage leaders on the local level, empower them to involve everyday citizens, and connecting them with a global Space Apps community.

At the core of Space Apps is its grass roots model, where local organizers from around the world volunteer invest time and effort to bring Space Apps to their local communities. Over the course of about four months, local organizers are tasked with finding a hackathon venue, recruiting participants and local partners, and carefully designing an event that will inspire innovation and collaboration. The impact of Space Apps is not achieved in isolation. Every year the Space Apps Global Organizing Team works to support the efforts of individual organizers as they prepare their events and to create a community of all of the events around the globe under one unified Space Apps platform. The team works with NASA scientists to produce challenge statements to inspire solutions on Space Apps weekend and works closely with the community to build upon existing parts of the Space Apps planning process and to implement new ones.​

“I loved NASA before, from my childhood. Space Apps helped me to actually touch my dream, gives me a chance to get involved in what I always dreamed about, and I realized it not a far, far away dream. I can still change the world!”

- Venus Izadi, Space Apps Sydney Lead

After 6 years of the program, common themes – women’s global participation, the participation of first timers, and the development of solutions with an impact – have continued to emerge on a global level. Space Apps 2017 was the largest yet, engaging 25,140 participants from 187 cities in 71 countries. Participation grew a staggering 63% from 2016 and 10 countries were added to the global community. In total, over 2,000 projects were produced in response to 25 Earth Science challenge statements.

"I'm excited today that there are going to be so many people that are new to coding just stepping out, having fun and learning to be creative and using technology as a tool."

Kimberly Bryant, Founder of Black Girls Code at Space Apps 2016 in Pasadena
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“We are constantly amazed by the changes in our participants when they finish the event. Even if they do not win, we have seen them change, be more sure and assertive and we see them leave as different persons. The group and collaborative approach is possible the most valuable quality we value in the event. “

Maria Zaghi, Space Apps Guatemala Lead

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