Canadian Space Apps Cities Rise to the Challenge

The presentations start at the Waterloo Space Apps Challenge. Credit: Waterloo Space Apps Challenge.

This past weekend Ottawa, Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo hosted NASA’s Space Apps Challenge. For Ottawa, this was their first year, for all the cities, it was a chance to get students involved and excited about space. And for the first time, the Canadian Space Agency participated and made its presence felt, which is a good thing.

A total of 170 students and 31 teams participated in the challenges during the 48 hour event in the three cities. As well, Toronto held a Youth Program for those aged 7-13 which attracted over 200 people and involved 15 local organizations.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) participation included their own Space Apps Challenges for participants to choose from. Each Canadian city nominated up to two winning teams to compete against the other cities in a national final. The CSA also sent astronaut Jeremy Hansen to give public talks in Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo.

The CSA involvement this year, and the success of the events should encourage other Canadian cities to participate in next years event, organizers told SpaceQ.

Ryan Anderson of Ottawa said “Space Apps Ottawa benefited a lot from the experiences of the teams in Toronto and Waterloo. We’re already starting to discuss ways to make 2018 bigger and better, and to expand to more cities.”

As for NASA’s Space Apps Challenge, it is a global event. This year over 170 locations participated with over 15,000 people. Each local event can nominate up to two winners who will then move on and compete in the global competition.

Ottawa Recap

Ottawa did a good job attracting sponsors and students for their first year effort. Organized by Ryan Anderson of QShift Inc., Nicholas Kellet of Deploy Software Solutions and Arthur Ruff of ISRU Tech Inc., the event had 30 participants in 7 teams.

The event was hosted at Cody’s Cafe at e-commerce giant Shopify’s headquarters.

The NASA Global Award Nominee is Ramrod

Space Jockey Challenge – Ramrod developed a tool that shows EO satellites in orbit and allows user to “see what the satellite sees”. The team included;

  • David Petrasovic is a Systems Engineer at Intel who specializes in Software Engineering. He graduated from Electrical Engineering and did his final year project in Neural Networks.
  • Samantha Larson is a graduate of the Aerospace Engineering Program with a Specialization in Space Systems Design at Carleton University. Her final project was modelling the zero-gravity net dynamics for the debris mitigation satellite design project.
  • Jonathan Kendrick is a Junior Systems Engineer at Thales Canada. He graduated from Carleton University with a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering and did his final year project in Satellite Design.

CSA Award Nominee Team is Peri Peri

RCM Challenge – Peri Peri built a user friendly interface to access and display modelled RCM data. The team included;

  • James Neal is an Enthusiastic Carleton Computer Science student that aspires to use technology to help reshape our world for the better for all.
  • Judy Chang is front end developer, she’s keen on beautiful designs and everything new tech. She also enjoys popeyes chicken.
  • Ali Salaheddin always aspired to reach the stars, until he realized that he can help make lives better for the “stars” living around him using his creativity and engineering skills.
  • Hesham Alshaebi is a logical guy who sees what’s ahead in the future and is all about technology.

NASA Global Award and People’s Choice Award Nominee is Bird Watchers

Migratory Travel and Travel Stories Challenge -Bird Watchers built a machine learning artificial intelligence that allowed users to identify animals by taking a picture, the app logged the sighting and location to add to the database for that animal. The team included;

  • Michael Dysart
  • William Wang
  • Vikram Bombhi
  • Ahmed Abdulwahaab

Ryan Anderson summed up the weekend success in saying “one of the keys to the success of Space Apps is that it requires a wide variety of skill sets from participants. That opens the door to a lot of people who may want to learn more about space and get involved, but never had the opportunity.”

Toronto Recap

The Toronto event was actually two events. The Space Apps Challenge was hosted by local software developer TWG while the Youth Program was hosted at Toronto’s Reference Library.

James Costa told SpaceQ that “we’re so grateful for the opportunity to bring Space Apps to Toronto for the 5th year. Having the CSA come strong with challenges and presence made a big difference and set the stage for future years to further push Canadian innovation in space and technology.”

The NASA Global Award Nominee Nominees Are

Nominee 1: Pinball Blizzard: The Challenge: Icy Polar Opposites – Design a data analysis and/or visualization tool to show the spatial and temporal changes in Arctic and Antarctic ice to a general audience.

Nominee 2: Drop the Drought: The Challenge: Our Planet, Our Home – Compare NASA Earth science data with data about people and tell your own story of human-environment interaction.

Climate Change is leading to extreme droughts and they are appearing in places which never experienced droughts before. People, property and livestock are at risk – and more so in countries where people are dependent on agriculture and cattle rearing for their livelihoods.

Using 15 years of satellite data, we are calculating average Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) to predict places where droughts are likely to happen and to give advanced warning to trigger action. This will ensure that droughts do not become famines and catastrophes.

NASA Global Award and People’s Choice Award Nominee is Sustaincity

Empowering people to report and clean up litters in their favourite parks.

CSA Award Nominee Team Are

Nominee 1: CitizenCan: The Challenge: Bring Your Own Solution – Follow your brain and your heart, and present a solution of your own choosing.

CitizenCAN is a citizen science project portal to Canada’s space history and future. The project is a framework that will provide connections to citizen science projects, information, resources, and data.

Citizen science projects are an opportunity for Canadian Space Agency to open their data up to Canadians and the world.

Nominee 2: Yes I Can: The Challenge: Bring Your Own Solution – Follow your brain and your heart, and present a solution of your own choosing.

“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 to reveal a section of the visual data gathered by RadarSat-2.

Toronto .space winner (A local challenge) is Yam Man

Toronto Space Apps Presentations

Kitchener-Waterloo Recap

At the Kitchener-Waterloo location, 11 teams worked on solutions at Communitech – a venue as inspiring as the challenges – igniting energy that was palatable. Working all day and all night, fueled by coffee, energy drinks and wide variety of healthy and not-so-healthy foods made for an exhausting, but exciting weekend.

The highlight on Saturday morning was a talk by Astronaut Jeremy Hansen that super-charged the teams and inspired more creativity. On Sunday, the Waterloo Space Apps Challenge concluded with the presentations by all teams demonstrating their innovative solutions to the world’s complex problems – all using space data.

Team G-Waves, earned a NASA global nomination, and devised an app to measure radiation exposure on flights, a very real concern for airlines, their employees and passengers. Team hackstreetboys, also receiving a NASA global nod.

The two teams that used the CSA data were tied, sending judges into a sudden death round with Team Jam and Team guelph++. Both teams devised an app to catalogue volumes of Allouette-1 data, now digitized. In the end, it was Team Jam chosen to compete at Nationals in Montreal.

The People’s Choice Award went to Team Four Shades of Brown that devised a method to remove – yes remove – air pollution. It was a clever use of drones and polymer, guided by space data that detects the highest levels of pollutants. Very inventive with a possible commercial application.

Waterloo Space Apps Presentations

Contributors to this story included: Ryan Anderson, Ottawa Space Apps, James Costa, Toronto Space Apps, James Slifierz and Michelle Mendes, Waterloo Space Apps.


About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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