Last week, we announced the Best in Class for the 2013 International Space Apps Challenge. The stories of these solutions and the teams who created them are too good not to share. Thus, we bring you a series of Best in Class profiles.
These are the voyages of the Space Apps Challenge…
It all began with a burrito.
Before Kate Gray remembered that there was such a thing as the International Space Apps Challenge, or realized that it had set challenges, she was looking up at the London sky.
A self-professed “proper space geek,” Gray contemplated the perpetual Londonian cloud cover that rarely allowed photographs from space of the historic city. Ideas that utilized today’s gadget-heavy culture to help coordinate missions were already percolating throughout space culture. Recalling a conversation with Tim Peake, renowned British astronaut, in which they discussed the practicality and efficiency of iPads and apps to astronauts, Gray was struck by inspiration. Her idea: an interfacing system between astronauts in the International Space Station and ordinary people on Earth.
What if there was an app that established direct communication between astronauts and civilians that allowed them to track and schedule viewings of the ISS from Earth? What if this same app also checked local weather conditions beforehand, thereby saving precious time usually wasted on waiting for the clouds to clear for good photography?
It is almost everyone’s childhood dream to be able to wave to an astronaut in space, and Gray was no exception. With the brainchild that would become T-10, and win the Best in Class category of Most Inspiring, she set out to find a team tech-savvy enough to make it reality.
A mutual calling to see the aurora in Finland brought together Gray and Joao Neves, one primarily on the computer-tech side of things who expressed interest in becoming more involved with space-centered projects. The two grabbed lunch and discussed future possibilities of working together. Recalling Space Apps, Gray proposed an idea: if Neves could make her project a reality, she would arrange his lodging in London. – “Remember this moment,” Gray jokingly told her new associate over that fateful burrito. “This is where it all starts.”
They had the idea for the app provided by Gray, and the data synthesis skillset from Neves, but they still needed team members skilled in the ways of app coding and design. By initiating a powerful Twitter campaign, the two found their app coder, a mutual tech and radio friend by the name of Ketan Majmudar. He provided the development front necessary to get T-10 functional. All they needed now was a good design.
The London event was underway, and the T-10 team – at this point, only Gray, Neves, and Majmudar – was galvanized by excitement. Rushing around, Gray overheard the arrival of Dario Lofish, a designer of whom she knew. Gray wasted no time – “Join our team!” she blurted, before excitedly describing the concept behind T-10. After some deliberation, Lofish returned, ready to take part. His skills for design and marketing were exactly what the team needed, giving the project an exterior sheen that reflected the hardcore programming of the app itself.
In a matter of 48 hours, the team transformed from a collection of near strangers to a tightly knit group of friends, all bouncing off of spectacular creative chemistry and a semi-dangerous Red Bull:blood ratio, to produce an app that every astronaut they talked to (2) expressed serious interest in using.
Although T-10 may have won the London challenge and one of the six Best in Class titles, the project’s initiative doesn’t end there, as evidenced by their continued effort to gain endorsement from astronauts to take T-10 live.
Their first goal, an undoubted success, was to emerge from the cloud of creativity and innovation that is the International Space Apps Challenge.
Their next one: space.