Pinoys techies create solutions while working from home
LOCKDOWN is not a scary word for Filipino developers, engineers, technologists, designers, scientists, coders, storytellers, makers, builders, innovators, and technopreneurs who participated in the recently concluded International Space Apps Challenge.
Run by a partnership between the United States space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) free and open data, together with partner agencies like Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) of France, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the European Space Agency (ESA), the virtual hackathon happens globally annually since 2012 and addresses real-world problems, like traffic or pollution. The most recent engagements produced awesome projects directly related to solving or living with the coronavirus pandemic.
Some of the projects developed include road hazard detection, data visualization tools, and machine learning for satellite image monitoring, and a lot more.
“Our ability to gather ourselves, organize, and come together have opened the doors to technology and progress. We have done great things, cure diseases, find ways to connect with each another across the oceans, and even walked on the Moon… all thanks to mutual cooperation,” VP Leni comments.
So what did the teams of Filipino developers do or aim at doing?
“Space infrastructure, space data, and space-enabled services, therefore, help inform policies and decision-support systems that can lead us to better plan and decongest our cities, improve our transportation systems, monitor the state of infrastructure, enable better connectivity, enhance our agricultural and fisheries production, and protect our natural environment,” first Director-General of the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) Dr. Joel Joseph S. Marciano Jr. encapsulates it, as he stressed the importance of space science in helping the society.
As an example, the recent COVID-19 challenge winners and finalists discussed how their space-based solutions address the coronavirus pandemic during the Data Brew 4: Space and Ground Data for the Betterment of the Human Condition by the Remote Sensing and Data Science (DATOS) Help Desk of the DOST-Advanced Science and Technology Institute with PhilSA and STAMINA4Space in a virtual meeting early in October.
Technology and developer community leaders and STAMINA4Space engineers as mentors helping participants during the hackathon
“How could someone imagine that Earth-observation data coming from space could give us valuable and unique insights about the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic in various countries, and to pinpoint possible mosquito habitats which causes another epidemic called dengue?” Domagas said stating that this is one example of the use of satellite imagery and data.
Since 2016, when the Space Apps program was introduced in the Philippines, the community of “techies and trekies” witnessed how they grew from a group of volunteers to forging partnerships with collaborators and stakeholders.
NASA and partner agencies recognized the hard work done by Filipinos. Pinoy teams have been recognized and awarded globally as winners and finalists consecutively in the past three years. Technology and developer community leader Tzar C. Umang from Pangasinan and U.S. cultural affairs officer Matt T. Keener, join Domagas in encouraging more local teams to participate. As the past teams have become winners and finalists are being recognized, the Space Apps challenge has had more impact and relevance in the local community of scientists.
“The Global Organizing Team is inspired by the journey the Philippines has with the Space Apps program. In particular, we appreciate the development of STEM in the Philippines and elsewhere, because one goal of Space Apps is to foster interest and learning in these fields worldwide,” said Matt Scott, the global community director and storyteller.