"Mission complete!", announced the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration on the Space Apps Challenge website: the largest international space hackathon took place successfully again this year, with more than 57,000 enthusiasts from 152 countries around the world over the same weekend on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th October 2023. Participation in this year's initiative also far exceeded the already high one of previous years, with more than 28,000 registered users in 2021 and more than 31,000 in 2022.
Picking up the gauntlet from NASA, with its 31 challenges launched for the occasion, were the more than 80 participants at the local event in Turin, organised and hosted by I3P in collaboration with the ESA BIC Turin incubation program. At the end of the two-day hackathon - 24 continuous hours to develop a project answering one of the open challenges - the project pitch session saw no less than 17 teams presenting their innovative proposals, based on space technologies and open data made available by NASA and the other space agencies which partnered the initiative, including the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI).
The prize-giving ceremony of the local hackathon in Turin, one of three Italian locations along with Rome and Cagliari, took place on the afternoon of Sunday 7th October, in the presence of Giuseppe Scellato, President of I3P and Coordinator of ESA BIC Turin, Giacomo Martinotti, Vice President of the Piedmont Aerospace District, and the many mentors, experts and jurors who closely followed the intense preparatory work of the participants, the most ever in the seven editions of Space Apps hosted by the Italian incubator over the years.
The project that won first prize at the Turin hackathon was the one presented by the TUX team, consisting of Adriano Parisi, Andrea Vittadello, Haseeb Ashfaq, Michele Marrone and Salvatore Calò. In response to the "NASA in Your Neighbourhood" challenge, TUX designed an app, called Otto, that can bring together and easily provide many useful space data from both satellites and ground stations, such as the Copernicus Sentinel constellation and NASA's observation system. The technical value of the project, its potential for use and the communicative quality of its pitch earned it the €1,000 prize offered by sponsor Thales Alenia Space, as well as selection as Global Nominee of Turin, which may eventually go on to compete internationally.
The second prize of the competition was awarded to the Firestrike team, consisting of Alessia Martiri, Lucrezia Sarti and Orlando Fatibene. Having chosen to tackle the challenge entitled "Managing Fire: Increasing Community-based Fire Management Opportunities", the team came up with "a fire management IoT system based on satellite data and local communities", i.e. a fire detection and prevention system for natural areas, consisting of a mobile detector device and a solar-powered transmission station capable of monitoring large territories with a very limited investment and even without an internet connection. The evaluation jury of the local hackathon awarded the Firestrike project with a €500 prize, financed by the sponsor Leaf Space.
The Special Prize of the Piedmont Aerospace District, worth €500, went to the Backfire team, consisting of five members: Carlo Bottaro, Filippo Rossi, Niccolò Scolari, Paolo Beci and Samuele Morini. This group also responded to the "Managing Fire" challenge, but proposed a different kind of project, called OpenFire: a non-profit organisation cooperating with local governments and mobile service providers to deliver an end-to-end solution for the reporting, management and distribution of fire information. "Our solution", explained the team, "aims to provide data that is easy to understand and use, to allow anyone to report and monitor wildfires and to send alert messages to the population in the affected areas using public SMS broadcast technologies."
The fourth of the award-winning teams, Cheat-O-Phone.e, instead tackled the challenge entitled "STAR: Revolutionizing Technical Standards with AI". Its members - Christian Gatto, Francesco Guarino, Marco Molino and Vittorio Mayellaro - set up the project named C.O.S.M.O.S. (Comprehensive Operational Standards & Manual Organisational System), which aims to revolutionise the management of technical standards in the aerospace industry through the use of artificial intelligence, in order to identify errors, inconsistencies or omissions in technical documents in the sector and suggest crucial corrections or improvements for greater efficiency. Cheat-O-Phone.e thus won the ESA BIC Turin Special Prize, worth €500, awarded directly by I3P, plus the special "People's Choice Award" from the ESA BIC Turin community.
Now the Space Apps 2023 competition continues on an international level. The teams nominated by each location that hosted the hackathon will be evaluated by the Global Judges: the best projects will be selected as Global Finalists and scrutinised by a jury formed by NASA and the initiative's main partner space agencies, with the aim of awarding the 10 Global Awards in January 2024.
I3P thanked all the numerous participants who filled its Agorà Hall with inventiveness, ingenuity and passion, as well as all the mentors, jurors and sponsors of the hackathon who collaborated in a fundamental way for the success of the local event, in the hope of having ignited the spark behind the creation of new innovative start-ups capable of starting a successful path in the growing sector of space entrepreneurship.