It’s not like it’s rocket science

All rights reserved by Cmdr Hadfield

Toronto Space Apps Challenge, April 19-21, 2013

Oh wait, it is!

NASA and the European Space Agency are hosting a hackathon in 75 cities around the world. It includes Canadian events in Toronto and Winnipeg.

“The International Space Apps Challenge is a technology development event during which citizens from around the world work together to solve challenges relevant to improving life on Earth and life in space.”

The Toronto event is focusing on 24 of the challenges provided by NASA (the full list of challenges is 50 large). The challenges provide a diverse set of skills and participation. Skills include software, hardware, strategy, and design. There are a number of challenges that include the interpretation of economic data and others that involve air traffic control.

With the amazing photos that Commander Hadfield is publishing on Twitter. Hopefully there is a renewed interest in the Canadian space industry. (We did build the Canadarm…) And the commericalization of space exploration with the X PRIZE and SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. It’s an amazing chance to participate in a grassroots exploration of space technologies and data.

List of Challenges in Toronto Space Apps Challenge

ESA 3D Printing Contest
Create an open source 3D model of space hardware that can be generated by a 3D printer.
My Space Cal
Combine the past and future time schedules of satellites into a common calendar that the world can easily access.
Wish You Were Here
Develop a compelling representation of weather on Mars.
Tour of the Moon
Enable humans worldwide to take an interactive tour of the Moon.
The Blue Marble
Rethink space-based Earth imagery and make it more accessible to a broad audience of space enthusiasts.
Solar Flare
Visualize invisible (to the human eye) phenomena that can affect so many vital terrestrial activities.
Seeing Water From Space
Create a visualization of Chile water resources, showing how they have changed over time relative to changes in climate.
SCISTARTER Citizen Science
Help humans understand and analyze microbial communities and compare with microbes on the International Space Station.
Renewable Energy Explorer
Create an app that integrates wind, solar, and geothermal energy data to show where combining them would have the greatest potential.
Incentives Tied to Utility Rates
Help consumers find relevant incentives, tax rebates, and savings for their energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts.
Earth Day Challenge
Explore the history of Earth Day using environmental data since 1970.
Aligning the Stars
Match and align the stars in Aurora imagery taken by Astronauts on the International Space Station.
“Catch a Meteor” Tracker
Create an app that would allow observers of a meteor shower to trace the location, color and size of the shooting star.
Database of Near Earth Objects
Create a platform to enables citizen astronomers to register, submit findings, and help rank the findings of other citizen astronomers.
CubeSats for Asteroid Exploration
Create a CubeSat design for a mission to astroids near Earth.
Deployable Greenhouse
Develop a deployable greenhouse that could be used on a space mission to the Moon or Mars.
Hitch a Ride to Mars
Design a CubeSat for an upcoming Mars mission.
My Virtual Mentor
Expand the online presence for the NASA GIRLS program to mobile and/or tablet platforms.
“No Delays” Air Traffic Management
Create a visualization that increases understanding of the problems of our current air traffic control system.
Space Station Benefits to Humanity
Develop a tool to improve the understanding of the incredible benefits that International Space Station is delivering back to Earth.
Spot the Station
Extend the functionality of the Spot the Station site that allows you to share your sightings of the International Space Station with others.
Syncing NASA’s Open Source Projects
Create an application that mirrors changes to NASA’s github presence.
NASA’s Impact on the Economy
Share the story of NASA’s economic impact in a new and compelling way.
Adopt-a-Spacecraft: Voyager 1
Humanize the Voyager mission through the creation of a data visualization, app, or even a physical object.

It’s an amazing time to be interested in space exploration. Plan on exploring at the ROM on April 19-21, 2013.

Coffee, Co-working and Crash Pads in Toronto

Editors Note: This is the first post by Andrew Peek at Jet Cooper. I love the concept of shared spaces for the collisions of ideas. Albert and I talked about this back at Bubbleshare. I know that it is part of the ethos at the Kontagent offices in SF. And I know it’s part of the culture at Extreme Ventures, where I’m camping while starting up. It reminds me of the “Responsible use of Shared Resources” philosophy from SCS at CMU, basically you’re responsible for not ruining it for everyone else don’t abuse the privilege. The open door policy is a great way to allow for new collisions whether that’s new ideas, new employees, or just new connections. @davidcrow


If you are an entrepreneur in Toronto, you are probably familiar with the various coffee shops, co-working spaces and wi-fi zones available to you as pseudo-offices. You might even have a pattern of Foursquare check-ins that run like clockwork throughout the week.Steven Johnson refers to spaces like these (noting England’s transition from pubs to coffee houses) as environments where ideas can have sex. At Jet Cooper, we like that.

While it takes a serious commitment to invent and scale something the size of a CSI (Centre for Social Innovation), it isn’t all that hard to contribute something – even if it’s just a few desks – to the people who might be one good conversation away from a big idea. It’s for that reason that we’ve kept a handful of desks available in our office since day one. Even now, as we plan for our next office furniture re-arrangement, we try to keep in mind the people we haven’t met yet.

Thinking back on it, it has been a wonderful way of attracting a lot of bright people, which on it’s own is a great way to expose any team to a city’s creative pulse. And realistically, all it cost was a few extra desks and chairs.

There are no restrictions on who can drop in. You don’t need to be a client, or a partner, or even have a twitter handle. Just stop by and maybe let us know your coming so we can put a beer on your desk.

Consider this a ringing endorsement for this kind of simple contribution. If you have an office, open the door. The correlation between environments and innovation isn’t a secret and as per usual, more good is gooder.