NASA challenges kids and teachers to build apps

NASA is a power house of information with variously collecting images of lunar craters, spectrum analysis of stars and galaxies that are far out in space, rocket telemetry and much much more. It uses a very small percentage of this data for its programs and has now come up with the innovative idea of allowing the general public access to all of this data so that they may use it to code software applications that are inventive and new.

NASA is working in conjunction with Top Coder, which is an online development competitions community, to make the NASA Tournament Lab which is a coding platform that allows students and teachers to compete with each other and program apps using NASA data winning prizes for their efforts.

TopCoder is a 400000 member strong community of coders who compete with each other to win prizes and also employment opportunities. Since its inception in 2001 it has presented its members with coding challenges that may be won based on speed and accuracy. Working with NASA they are throwing down the gauntlet and offering two prizes. One if for students between 13 and 18 years old, to design the “Ultimate app” allowing them to freely explore their imaginations and come with something unique; the other is for Educators and has an end use in mind, which is to design an app that will use NASA data in the class room.

The winners will be decided by a panel of people from NASA that will include a former astronaut, scientists and teachers. The prize for each of these competitions is $7000, bragging rights and the winner of the students’ competition gets to bring a friend with them to observe the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory.

The idea behind this competition is twofold; firstly to come up with inventive ideas that use all the data that NASA collects by looking at the data using fresh eyes and minds, and secondly to encourage kids to look at science in a new light, challenging their intellect and opening their minds to a career in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) by allowing them a hands on experience with data manipulation and coding.

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