Student Participates in NASA Space Apps Challenge

October 19, 2018

A student trying on an Electroencephalography headset

Delson DaSilva, BSME '19, tests out an electroencephalography headset that allows astronauts to control their spacesuit with their thoughts. 

The NASA International Space Apps Challenge will take place this weekend, with people from all over the world participating in a hackathon that will last 48 hours. One of those taking part is Wentworth student Delson DaSilva, BSME ’19, who is helping to mentor other Wentworth students interested in participating in hackathons and finding networking opportunities.

Teams hailing from Boston and as far as Nigeria and Australia will address challenges we face on Earth and in space, whether it's through a design, a proof of concept, a prototype, or something else. The hackathon will take place in more than 200 cities, and Boston’s hackathon will run from 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 20 to August 21 at 4:00 p.m.

The Boston chapter of the Space Apps Challenge is unique in that participants in Boston have the option to collaborate with participants from Japan through the mixed team initiative. Participants communicate through tools such as Skype and work through the language barrier and time difference to create and present their projects.

DaSilva, who has participated in the mixed team initiative before, called it an “unforgettable experience.”

“It was so exciting to see how people from a different culture had a whole different perspective in addressing the same challenges that we were both looking at in such a time sensitive and high pressure environment,” DaSilva said.

The hackathon is divided into four to six categories, with three to four challenges within those categories. This year, categories include “A Universe of Beauty and Wonder,” which contains a task asking participants to develop a concept for a time capsule with content that could educate an extraterrestrial civilization about human culture and our solar system.

Many of these challenges are ones that NASA has already addressed, but are looking for new approaches. Other challenges are far in the future, so NASA is looking for inspiration for when they finally decide to tackle such challenges.

To assist participants with addressing the challenges, NASA opens up their data sets for the hackathon, data sets and entries that people working at NASA directly work with.

DaSilva, who is currently the idea hackers lead at Accelerate, is raising awareness about the Space Apps Challenge to other Wentworth students. His goal is that a team of Wentworth students attend and come back to report on how it was a great learning experience.

“To be able to kind of take a break from [your classes] and just explore your interests and what intrigues you for 48 hours,” DaSilva said, “then get very valuable and critical feedback on the whole process of your idea generation, the development of that idea, and the presentation of that idea from very high quality people is an opportunity that you should not pass up on.”

--Samuel Kim

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