Reflections from the International Space Development Conference 2017, St. Louis, USA

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Arushi and Artash participating in the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) 2017, St. Louis, USA

Between 26-29 May 2017, we participated in the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) organised by the National Space Society (NSS) in St. Louis, USA.

ISDC is an annual event held in a different city each year. This was our third ISDC event. We have made presentations on our projects at ISDC 2016 (Puerto Rico) and ISDC 2015 (Toronto). We enjoy participating in ISDC as it attended by all age-groups, including students. And we meet those who are simply interested in space as well as professionals working in space sector (including NASA engineers and astronauts). There are lots of plenaries and parallel sessions spread over four days on wide ranging space issues. This allows us to attend sessions of our interest, and learn about new space initiatives. Last year we learnt about the StarShot – Breakthrough Initiative to have a flyby mission to reach Alpha Centauri in just over 20 years from launch. This year we learnt more about the Europa Clipper mission to Europa (the icy moon of Jupiter). Parallel sessions are good avenues to meet the presenters and ask them questions.


HotPopRobot team delivering its presentation Making Sense of Data from Space: The Citizen Science Approach

We were invited to give 2 presentations and conduct a workshop for middle school students at the ISDC this year.  One of our presentation was under the track “Many Roads to Space” and was titled : Making Sense of Data from Space: The Citizen Science Approach. We presented our experiences of using satellite data from various NASA Satellites (LandSat, Terra Modis, Terra Aqua) as well as Canadian Satellites (RadarSat-2) for our projects on tracking droughts, migration patterns, volcano eruptions, and other events. The other presentation one was on Maker Families: Building Together on Space, Science, and Technology under the NextGen track.

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HotPopRobot to present @ International Space Development Conference, St. Louis, USA, 25 -29 May 2017

Canada Arm.pngHotPopRobot Team will be giving 2 presentations at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) being held in St. Louis, Missouri USA from 25 -29 May 2017. In additional we will be conducting a workshop for middle school students under the NextGen Track.

Our presentations will be based on our projects on space and science we have undertaken in the past four years, including those which won awards at the NASA Space Apps Challenge, Canadian Space Apps Challenge, Maker Festivals, Climate Hackathon and Hardware Hackathon.

  • Making Sense of Data from Space: The Citizen Science Approach

Satellites orbiting the Earth generate vast sets of scientific information. Many of these data sets are available under Open Source licenses allow users to access, modify, and share data and code. NASA itself promotes broader utilization of its data archives by researchers and students globally by make it available easily through web and applications programming interfaces (APIs). How can a common citizen with interest in space and science utilize this data? Can a citizen scientist use this data to solve some of the global  or local challenges? Find out in our presentation on the citizen-science approach to space data.

  • Maker Families: Building Together on Space, Science, and Technology

We will present some of the Space Projects we have created using household objects, microprocessors and programming (and which won Awards at NASA Space Apps and Maker Festivals). These projects could be carried out at home and in schools to bring practical, do it yourself knowledge on Space and Astronomy among educators, mentors and parents. The focus is on science education and outreach in our everyday conversations, and on raising the NextGen who are creators and makers in the Space Arena rather than simply consumers of technology. 

  • Workshop: Do It Yourself Astronomy: Learn more about stars!

Our Homemade Spectroscope – GalacticBot (Hardware Hack Winner)

In this workshop under the NextGen Tracks, we will be teaching students how to build their own Spectroscopes using Cardboard Tubes and CD-ROMs. They will be able to look at spectrum of different lights. Through this experiment, they will be able to learn other aspects of Astronomy, including star temperature, age of the star, its composition etc. 

Students will also be able to learn more about Exoplanets and how spectroscopy is being used to find more about the atmosphere of the exoplanets, and this technique could one day be used for detecting signatures of life on these planets.

More details about ISDC 2017 and the program schedule at:


“Yes I Can” wins the Canadian Space Agency – NASA SpaceApps 2017 Challenge Toronto

Arushi Space Apps

Arushi (7 years) presented her “Yes I Can” solution at NASA/CSA Space Apps Challenge 2017, Toronto.

The NASA SpaceApps Challenge 2017 was held from 28  -30 April 2017. For the first time, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) also posted some challenges for the participants alongside those designed by the NASA.

Our team member- Arushi (7 years) participated in the CSA designed challenge of interpreting and using Earth observation data from the Canadian Satellite RadarSat -2, alongside our participation in the NASA Space Apps Challenge in Toronto.

Her solution “Yes I Can” used the entire set of visual data to create a digital mosaic of the Canadian Flag and the Canada @ 150 Year Logo. Each piece of the mosaic can be clicked on to reveal a section of the visual data gathered by RadarSat-2.


Mosaic made using Canadian Satellite RadarSat-2 Data

She presented her solution before the judges and “Yes I Can” was the winner of the Canadian Space Apps Challenge 2017 Toronto.

More details at:

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“Drop the Drought” wins the NASA Space Apps Toronto – moves to @SpaceApps Global Round


Global Nominees to NASA Space Apps 2017

On the weekend of 28 – 30 April 2017 we participated in the NASA SpaceApps Hackathon held in Toronto to create solutions to to some of the NASA-designed challenges. Our solution “Drop the Drought” won the hackathon and have moved to the Space Apps Global Round

SpaceAppsTeam with Jeremy Hansen

Meeting with Canadian Astronaut Jeremy Hansen at NASA SpaceApps Toronto 2017

Artash took upon the challenge “Our Planet, Our Home” to come up with Drop the Drought application which uses satellite imagery to predict climate change induced droughts, and migration that may happen as people and cattle move out in search of food and water. It gives Governments and people time to act before droughts turn to famines and catastrophes.

We used satellite imagery from NASA Satellites : LandSat, Terra MODIS and Aqua MODIS, and human data from the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)  hosted at the Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York to understand how vegetation levels are changing in areas of high population density. We used normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) as an indicator of plant health and simulated the visual data over several months to see the changes in the index.


Artash Nath (10 years) presenting the winning solution – Drop the Drought – to predict droughts and migration patterns because of climate change.

Our focus for Drop the Drought was on countries where a large section of population practices rain-fed farming, or where there are sizable pastoral communities.

During our presentation before the judges at the NASA SpaceApps Toronto we used data from Kenya-Uganda border  and our application was able to show the difference in vegetation index of these two countries (Uganda is healthier while drought conditions are evident in Kenya) and the migration that may happen of agrarian and pastoral communities from Kenya to Uganda in search of food and fodder. And this is exactly what is now happening as per the global news.

It is natural for droughts to happen. But as we thought through and came up with our Drop the Drought solution we found it un-natural that in spite of having an eye in the sky for last 15 years (the constellation of satellites that are constantly monitoring Earth and providing us data) we are not able to see droughts coming in and take action before they happen. We hope this would change through our application so that people and livestock do not have to go through untold misery.

And we need support to develop this application further.

More information at:

NASA Space Apps is an international hackathon that occurs over 48 hours in cities around the world. This year it was organised in 187 locations in 69 countries with an estimated 25,000 participants.

Rockets, Rovers, Radio Telescopes and Aliens! NASA Youth Space Apps 2017

So you want to be an Astronaut? Build some rockets, see a rover in action, learn how a radio telescope works, and pitch your intelligence against the Aliens. 

Sounds exciting? Join us on April 29, 2017 at the Toronto Reference Library.


For the third year in a row, will be organising space – themed activities for kids at the NASA’s Space Apps Toronto Youth Program.

Last year, we had over hundred kids visiting us to make a Star Finder, a Pinwheel Galaxy Pinwheel, and to play with our Robots! And the year before that we had kids build spectroscopes to see different light spectrum using cardboard tubes and old CD-Rom.


HotPopRobot at NASA Youth Space Apps 2015

Spaceapps2016-edit at NASA Youth Space Apps 2016

The B(m)aking of Canada – 150 Years : TIFF Jump Cuts Finalist 2017 (and wins an Honourable Mention!)


Still from the movie : The B(m)aking of Canada – 150 years!

UPDATE: The movie got an Honourable Mention in the TIFF Jump Cuts Young Filmmakers Showcase (Grades 4 to 6). See TIFF Press Release. Thank you TIFF for this opportunity!

A short film created by Artash and Arushi –  The B(m)aking of Canada- 150 years / La cuisson du Canada to celebrate Canada’s 150 birthday has been selected among the finalist for the TIFF Kids Jump Cuts Young TIFFKidsFilmmakers Showcase 2017.

The film was screened for Schools and the General Public at the TIFF on April 21 and April 23, 2017, and won an honourable mention.

TIFF Interview

Artash and Arushi being interviewed about their move at the Toronto International Kids Film Festival (TIFF) 2017.

We love baking and we love Canada. We combined both our loves to present what it means living in Canada and being Canadian. We have brought together our first-hand experiences of Canada, the Canadian icons and lifestyle including canoeing in the Great Lakes, camping in a national park, watching Toronto Maple Leafs game, taking train rides across Canada, meeting Chris Hadfield, beavers, and celebrating with our friends in this movie. And all this happens while we are baking bread.


Group picture with other finalists at the Toronto International Kids Film Festival (TIFF) 2017.

It is all about sharing, celebrating and the m(b)aking of Canada. We composed our own music, and made our own props including the beaver mask, the Canada Arm and letters made of play dough. We hope you enjoy this movie celebrating 150 years of Canada’s confederation.

2.2 Million Trees Missing from Toronto! “Fix the SIX” #Climathon Winner Update


Figure 1

2.2 Million Trees are missing in Toronto – taken away from our neighborhood parks and streets.

The missing trees would have removed an extra 10,000 tonnes of carbon from air each year – equivalent to carbon emissions of 7000 cars – and provide direct economic value of $3.9 million (Figure 1)

This is the latest finding from our “Fix the Six” project aimed at reducing climate emissions in Toronto.

“Fix the Six” project was conceived by during the 24 hours #Climathon Toronto (Climate Hackathon)  organised by Climate-KIC on October 28-29, 2016. The team won the First Prize as well as Climate Hero Award.

Using Google Maps, Geographical Information Software (GIS) and I-Tree application, the team calculated the tree cover of 7 Toronto parks and 4 Toronto street (Figure 2).


Figure 2

Over 6400 sample points were taken while carrying out the GIS survey of the Toronto Parks and Streets taken in our sample – giving an error margin of +/- 2%.
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