Filipinos developed solutions at home together with NASA

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Last October 2-4, 2020, Filipino developers, engineers, technologists, designers, scientists, coders, storytellers, makers, builders, innovators, and entrepreneurs from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao came together to address real-world problems on Earth and space by engaging with the United States space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration‘s (NASA) free and open data, together with partner agencies like Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) of France, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the European Space Agency (ESA) in a virtual hackathon. Some of the projects developed include road hazard detection, data visualization tools, and machine learning for satellite image monitoring, and a lot more.

This year’s edition of NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic situation worldwide. The theme of this year “Take Action” — is a critical reminder that anyone can make a difference, even from the comfort and safety of home. In this unprecedented time, the Space Apps community exists as a reminder that there the tools and talents to tackle challenges facing the planet, as well as the ability to unite across boundaries and borders of all kinds.

Vice President Leni Robredo lauded this event as “our ability to gather ourselves, organize, and come together have opened the doors to technology and progress. We have done great things, cure diseases, find ways to connect with each another across the oceans, and even walked on the Moon… all thanks to mutual cooperation.”

The first Director-General of the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) Dr. Joel Joseph S. Marciano Jr. stressed the importance of space science in helping the society. “Space infrastructure, space data, and space-enabled services therefore help inform policies and decision-support systems that can lead us to better plan and decongest our cities, improve our transportation systems, monitor the state of infrastructure, enable better connectivity, enhance our agricultural and fisheries production, and protect our natural environment,” he said.

Since the start of Space Apps in the Philippines on 2016, the country witnessed on how the community grew from a group of volunteers to forging partnerships with collaborators and stakeholders. For many years, Filipinos collaborate and work with one another in developing projects to solve problems using space technologies. NASA and partner agencies recognized the hard work done by Filipinos, and thus being recognized and awarded globally as winners and finalists consecutively in the past three years. Software developer Michael Lance M. Domagas is optimistic that in these momentous and trying times, the country would still choose to prioritize and give value to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), especially in emerging fields like space science where innovators can contribute and solve the most pressing problems prevailing in the society and environment today.

“How could someone imagine that Earth-observation data coming from space could give us valuable and unique insights about the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic in various countries, and to pinpoint possible mosquito habitats which causes another epidemic called dengue? Why can’t we support our own modern-day heroes specializing in new and emerging technologies to address issues and help others in our country? NASA and partner agencies from other countries have already recognize the ingenuity of Filipinos for the past three years. Now is the proper time for our own country to recognize their achievements too,” Michael Lance said. Together with technology and developer community leader Tzar C. Umang from Pangasinan and U.S. cultural affairs officer Matt T. Keener, Michael Lance looks forward in having more Filipino winners and finalists being recognized, and to a more meaningful and impactful Space Apps challenge in the future years to come.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) undersecretary for competitiveness and innovation Dr. Rafaelita “Fita” M. Aldaba, Analytics Association of the Philippines (AAP) president Colin Christie, former Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) undersecretary and University of the Philippines System Information Technology Foundation president Monchito B. Ibrahim, assistant professor and assistant chairman for administration, Department of Geodetic Engineering at the University of the Philippines and Sustained Support for Local Space Technology and Applications Mastery, Innovation and Advancement (STAMINA4Space) GRASPED project staff Dr. Czar Jakiri S. Sarmiento, part-time lecturer and technopreneurship/program manager at the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP) Nitro Erwin A. Lizarondo, senior consultant for data analytics for social impact at CirroLytix, Data Ethics PH, and COVID-19 challenge winner for the best use of data Nick Tobia, and Africa University chair educational technologies and United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) Space4Women mentor Ms. Basuti Gerty Bolo from Zimbabwe served as local judges in Manila.

Community partners include STAMINA4Space, PhilSA, the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCIEERD), DTI-Design Center of the Philippines, AAP, Data Ethics PH, CirroLytix, PWA Pilipinas, TMDC IT Solutions, Pampanga Developers Group, Koodi, Web and Mobile Developers PH, UXPH, DevCon, Alaga Health, Philippine Information Technology Organization (Phil IT Org), TIP Nitro, De La Salle University, Google Developers Group (GDG) Cloud Manila, 98 labs, United Pangasinan ICT Council, Code UX, DesignMNL Studio, Talino Labs, Impact Hub Manila, Elinnov Technologies, Drupal Pilipinas, Pantheon, Wadwhani Foundation, Youth for Women in Technology (WiTech), Kallisto, Wavefarers, Stock Knowledge, MVN Photostudio, and the U.S. embassy.

“The Global Organizing Team is inspired by the journey the Philippines has with the Space Apps program. In particular, we appreciate the development of STEM in the Philippines and elsewhere, because one goal of Space Apps is to foster interest and learning in these fields worldwide,” said Matt Scott, the global community director and storyteller.

The recent COVID-19 challenge winners and finalists discussed how their space-based solutions address the coronavirus pandemic during the Data Brew 4: Space and Ground Data for the Betterment of the Human Condition on Wednesday, October 7, 2020 by the Remote Sensing and Data Science (DATOS) Help Desk of the DOST-Advanced Science and Technology Institute with PhilSA and STAMINA4Space.

In the Philippines, Space Apps is part of the World Space Week and celebrates the Design Week Philippines with DTI-Design Center of the Philippines.

Space Apps is a NASA-led initiative organized in collaboration with Booz Allen Hamilton, Mindgrub, SecondMuse, and the NASA Open Innovation Applied Sciences Program.

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