Arushi Nath. Grade 8 Student. Toronto.

I mark each passing year with an engagement with the NASA SpaceApps Hackathon. 2022 way my 10th year of participating in NASA SpaceApps. My first SpaceApps was in 2014 when I was only 5 years.

In 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Covid-19 SpaceApps Challenge, I participated as a hacker – building and submitting projects for judging. It was fun being a participant for so many years, winning “locally” several times, becoming a “Global Nominee” from Toronto (2014, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020), and finally becoming a “Global Winner” in 2020 (COVID-19 SpaceApps Challenge). Getting invited to view a spacecraft launch from one of the NASA spaceports and being featured as a winner on the NASA website and in an article was a wonderful culmination of my journey as a SpaceApps hacker.

In 2020 and 2021, I became a mentor and a presenter at NASA SpaceApps Toronto, And in 2022, in addition to being a mentor and a presenter, I ended up being a SpaceApps judge for the first time! This allowed me to experience all aspects of the SpaceApps challenge, from being a participant to being a mentor and a judge.

NASA Youth Space Apps Judges and Organizers (Credit: Julie Claveau, Canadian Space Agency)

Becoming a mentor and a judge was a very unique experience: it allowed me to interact with so many participants experiencing their first hackathon bringing back fond memories. I was able to share their excitement as well as their apprehensions: from taking the first steps to signing in for SpaceApps to actually participating, forming teams, creating a project, and presenting them to the judges.

The 2022 Youth SpaceApps in Canada was held at the University of Toronto, Mississauga campus. from September 30 to October 2. The local organizer was Indus Space, headed by Dr. Bhairavi Shankar.

Event Schedule (My presentation was on Hack your Curiousity)

The first evening was held virtually starting at 4pm and included icebreakers, a review of weekend plans, a talk by John Scully on Problem Solving a Hackathon, and at 6:30 pm, a virtual kickoff hosted by the Canadian Space Agency. The Canadian Space Agency was the host of the Canadian SpaceApps Challenge.

On the second day, held in person at the University of Toronto, Mississauga campus, there was a series of presentations, so that the participants could get more ideas about the projects they could undertake. I delivered a presentation titled Hack your Creativity using Hardware, Software, Coding, Science, Music and Art.” The presentation featured some of the projects I had created during the previous SpaceApps hackathons. These included hardware projects such as robots, rovers and spacecraft models to software projects that merged arts and music with science.

In my presentation, I provided a roadmap to young participants on how to approach their hackathon in terms of team formation, how to select topics, what datasets to employ, coding tools they could use, how much in-depth they should go into their projects, how to allocate time for different activities of the hackathon, and finally how to create their final presentation and pitches for the judges. I stressed the importance of being creative and being able to wrap up the project in time for submissions.

It was wonderful to answer queries that came up from the participants. Some of the queries were on how I got started, where did I learn to code in Python and Arduino, and how did I decide upon what projects to create during the hackathon.

Delivering my Presentation to NASA Youth Space Apps 2022 Participants

The event was very well organized. I got an opportunity to meet other mentors and judges. They came from different organizations. including the Canadian Space Agency, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and the Indus Space. It was a great opportunity for me to learn about the work they do in the space sector and some of the challenges and projects they are currently working on.

The judging for NASA SpaceApps was done virtually a week after the competition. The judges had to view all the presentations and pitches uploaded by the teams and grade each of them. The judging was based on five criteria: project creativity, project impact, project relevance, project validity, and the presentation skills demonstrated by all team members. Each team could get up to 50 points, with a maximum of 10 points assigned to each section. It was so cool to view these presentations and learn from the amazing ideas and demonstrations the teams had come up with. I judged all 5 projects based on those criteria, and the winning team was “Learning through the Looking Glass.”

It was a wonderful weekend spent for NASA Youth SpaceApps 2022, and I hope to be back again for NASA SpaceApps 2023.

External links:

2022 Space Apps Challenge Coming This Weekend

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