The World's Largest Hackathon: A Recap of Space Apps Weekend 2017

69 countries, over 61 last year....

187 locations, over 161 last year....

~25,000 participants, over approximately 15,000 last year....

A reach of 40 million people with the #SpaceApps hashtag!*

The international growth of Space Apps this year has been astonishing!  We in the Space Apps Global Organizing Team thought we would break the record numbers set by last year’s competition, but we had no idea it would be by this much!

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We could see the Space Apps community spring into action on our servers this weekend, as contestants across the world woke up and started hacking on Saturday and Sunday.  The flurry of activity steadily moved westward throughout the weekend, following the daytime!  (That was fun to watch!)

As the sun is now setting over the 6th annual International Space Apps Challenge, the final presentations are wrapping up, and the first round of local judging is being completed.  We are eager to know: what was your experience of Space Apps this year? Were you a participant, a host, a judge, a subject matter expert, or part of the online audience watching the livestreams from numerous locations?   

Let’s take a global view of what transpired at the world’s biggest hackathon this weekend! The Space Apps in Melbourne, Australia, was geographically one of the first to start.

MelbourneOn Friday evening the local host, Troy McCann, spoke with Andrea Boyd, a Flight Controller for the International Space Station.  It isn’t very common to have Australians involved in the space industry at such a high level.  The Space Apps crowd really enjoyed hearing from her, particularly when she explained how astronauts handle medical emergencies in space.

On Sunday morning, the Melbourne group heard from the fascinating Andrew Aldrin—son of Buzz Aldrin—who is working in the launch and education areas of the space industry himself.  He is helping set up a course to prepare people for the “new” space industry (meaning the entrepreneurial approach). Andrew also said that he would like to see people investing in propulsion from the moon and space manufacturing—building things on the moon itself and launching from there.

Taiwan 2Taipei, Taiwan, became a first-time Space Apps host in 2017, welcoming a total of 57 teams comprised of 214 participants to the hackathon at National Taiwan University.

In a video prior to the event, Space Apps Taipei participants proclaimed, “We are ready to step on the stage, take the challenge, brainstorm our minds, explore the unknown. Let’s work together and show the world our creativity and possibility!"

Projects produced at the first Taipei Space Apps competition include Astrohackers in Taiwan, a game to educate players about the definitions of Earth-related scientific terms, and UpperEast, unleashing the power of NASA data, including using Google Earth to display volcano, aerosol, and rain data.  The Taipei group even produced a time-lapse video of teams working!

We are ready to step on the stage, take the challenge, brainstorm our minds, explore the unknown. Let’s work together and show the world our creativity and possibility!
Space Apps Taipei Participants

hardware from here comes the sun.jpegSpace Apps Maringá, Brazil, was another first-time host this year!  First place was awarded to Here Comes the Sun, presenting a mobile app called The Sunscreen, created to provide real-time sun data to beach-goers, in order to inform users of local percentage of sun incidence, tips to improve the beach experience, and precautionary measures, in order to prevent skin diseases and sun damage. The project was submitted as part of our Let’s Go to the Beach challenge.  See Maringá’s winning teams here.


Meet team AfricApps from Space Apps Dakar.  This team chose the Bring Your Own Solution option for this year’s Space Apps: "AfricApps is a download web platform for developers and a mobile one for users that will allow African developers to sell their applications. AfricApps will be the first African store integrated in your mobile phone!"

In its fifth year, Space Apps Kathmandu became home to more than 15 projects. These included Grow Tech Nepal, a digital hydroponics farming system supported by data analysis of crops; Team Dark, a real time wind warning system; and Siren, a project aimed at making locals aware of natural disasters. The winning project at the hackathon was Smart Agriculture.


Space Apps Kathmandu was hosted by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which is also the home of SERVIR-Himalaya.  SERVIR represents a partnership between NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), with the goal of connecting "space to village" to help "developing countries use information provided by Earth observing satellites and geospatial technologies to manage climate risks and land use."

At Space Apps in Rome, Italy, once again, the community came out to support the competition in full force! Space Apps Rome was a huge success, with more than 100 participants coming together to spend the weekend hacking at La Sapienza University.  The hackathon in Rome is organized through a special collaboration with the U.S. Embassy, the European Space Agency, and others.  Space Apps Rome has featured multiple former Global Award winners over the years, and members of those teams were on-hand to mentor teams, support the organizers, and catch up with one another throughout the weekend.

SpaceAppsRome2017.pngOn Friday morning, the group checked in with other Italian sites in Vicenza and Napoli so that the events might give each other a salute.  This national and regional collaboration is an example of many we saw this weekend, all part of the broad international collaboration that makes Space Apps so inspiring!

Space Apps Rome is like one big family—and a family I was deeply grateful to be able to spend time with this weekend!
Blake Garcia, SecondMuse, Space Apps Global Organizing Team

“Space Apps Rome is like one big family—and a family I was deeply grateful to be able to spend time with this weekend,” says Blake Garcia of SecondMuse, who leads community management for the Global Space Apps Organizing Team in the U.S.  If you were a Space Apps host over the past few years, you got to know the amazing Blake during your orientation and planning processes!  Blake traveled to Italy to help kick off the hackathon in Rome and gave the excited crowd some inspiring words, featured in the Huffington Post yesterday.

And now, here’s some guidance from Blake about this year’s judging and awards processes!

Judging and Awards


Over the next month, the community will be waiting in anticipation for the global judging results.  After Space Apps weekend, global judging and local People’s Choice Award nominees have until Friday, May 5th, at 11:59pm (local) to create their 30-second project videos. NASA judges will spend the next month reviewing the global judging nominees. We will announce the finalists at the end of the month, and the winners will be announced in early June. Teams will compete for awards in 5 categories:

  • Best Use of Data: The solution that best makes space data accessible, or leverages it to a unique application.
  • Best Use of Hardware: The solution that exemplifies the most innovative use of hardware.
  • Best Mission Concept: The solution with the most plausible solution concept and design.
  • Galactic Impact: The solution with the most potential to improve life on Earth or in the Universe.
  • Most Inspirational: The solution that captures our hearts.
  • We can’t forget about the People’s Choice!  Each location nominates their community’s favorite project to go on to the global People’s Choice Award vote. Starting on Monday, May 8th, members of the public will be able to vote once per day for their favorite project on After two weeks of voting, the five projects receiving the most votes will be selected and voting will only be open on those projects in the final two weeks. The five projects will do a big campaign for votes over the last two weeks, so be sure to vote to help determine the winner.

Global award winners (including the People’s Choice Award) will be invited to attend a NASA launch event at a date to be announced.

Were you a part of Space Apps 2017? Tell us about it!

  • @spaceapps

Special thanks to Blake Garcia, Matt Scott, and Davar Ardalan and all the Space Apps locations mentioned here for their contributions to this article.

*Hashtag data is for the timeframe between March 31–April 30 on Twitter and Instagram.


SpaceApps is a NASA incubator innovation program.