RISE Center at AUK Hosts Kuwait’s NASA Space Apps Challenge 2019
The Center for Research in Informatics, Sciences, and Engineering (RISE) at the American University of Kuwait (AUK) concluded the second year of Kuwait’s local edition of the NASA Space Apps Challenge in collaboration with its strategic partner, Kuwait Projects Company (KIPCO). The 48-hour hackathon was attended by a myriad of eager contestants, including high school students, AUK alumni and professors. The closing ceremony unveiled the two winning teams “OxylusKuwait” and “Tempest”, both of which have qualified to join the world finals.
The NASA Space Apps Challenge is the world’s largest hackathon introduced by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The international competition occurred in more than 75 countries around the globe. The Kuwait competition took place at Marina Hotel and brought together around 80 people from around Kuwait to solve problems related to Earth and space.
As witnessed throughout the weekend, NASA Space Apps lived up to its ethos and inspired collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Twelve competing teams—composed of scientists, coders, space enthusiasts, graphic designers and business analysts—worked over 48 hours to create apps, games, and websites that addressed the challenges provided by NASA Space Apps. These included, Earth's Oceans, Our Moon, Planets Near and Far, To The Stars, and Living in Our World. Subject matter experts from different institutions were available throughout the event to mentor participants and help with questions related to Earth, space science, and technology.
The 2-day event concluded with a closing ceremony, in which the two winner teams were announced. During his closing speech, Dr. Amir Zeid, Dean of the AUK College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, congratulated all participants on their vigilance and perseverance in working long hours to produce a marketable software solution within a short period of time. “Hackathons are increasingly becoming an effective developmental platform to generate young innovations and new business ideas of international significance. Throughout the past 48 hours, our NASA Space Apps teams have been working around the clock to produce comprehensive software solutions. I am amazed by the level of energy and enthusiasm these young people radiate, and I am even more thrilled to see this number of high school participants coming to the stage to showcase their talents and innovative ideas,” said Dr. Zeid. “We treasure KIPCO’s strategic partnership for the second year, and we hope to continue working with them on more youth empowerment initiatives in the future,” he added.
Stressing on the essence of youth empowerment in Kuwait, Ms. Abeer Al-Omar, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at KIPCO noted, “This is KIPCO’s second year supporting the NASA Space Apps Challenge as it aligns with KIPCO CSR strategy of youth welfare. We are very proud of the creative ideas that are coming from Kuwait’s youth, and we continue to offer our sincere support and congratulations to the winners for their devotion and commitment during the duration of this challenge.”
The atmosphere at Six Palms (Marina Hotel) radiated devotion and commitment, but the teams did not only think of creating projects that would win the competition, rather, similar to last year, they made sure to weigh in the social and ethical impacts of their ideas. Commenting on this, AUK President Dr. Rawda Awwad said in her closing remarks, “At AUK, experiential learning is not merely a concept; rather, it is our practice. However, the level of engagement at NASA Space Apps Challenge is something entirely new. It is spaces such as these, that often become the site for something that is groundbreaking. This is AUK's version of education; and to say that we are proud of you is an understatement.”
Three judges convened to select the first and second place teams who will move on to compete globally against winners from other locations. The judges, Mr. Mazen Hawwa, KIPCO Senior Vice President of Finance and Operations; Mr. Yacoub Yousef Al-Bash, Team Leader of Information Technology Services at Kuwait Oil Company (KOC); and Dr. Bassem Alfeeli, Director of Innovation and Enterprise at KFAS, represented a variety of expertise and provided a balanced perspective. Each team had 5 minutes to explain and demonstrate their projects to the judges, after which the judges made their final choice of winners.
The first winning project “Oxylus” led by AUK alumnus Ali Kelkawi, is a multi-tier application which allows communities at risk of wildfire to serve each other as well as to be better assisted by authorities. The application allows communities to offer services such as shelters to other people, carpool and volunteer with the authorities when needed, all this built on top of a previous iteration of the application which allowed users to report wildfires in the vicinity to alert their community. The mobile application developed is also able to safely navigate users away from danger zones to their required destination. A prediction model was also developed to predict fires based on a location’s given features (temperature, humidity, wind etc.) to be able to better allocate resources to areas at risk.
“It is always a pleasure to gather as a community of developers in Kuwait to tackle different issues through the use of technology. The challenges encouraged us to think outside the box to come up with innovative solutions in the theme of Earth and Space, and I am extremely proud of the level of quality that my team was able to deliver in this year’s challenge,” Said Kelkawi.
The second winning project “My Verse”, led by AUK alumnus Omar Khalil, is a mobile AR application that allows users to create, customize, and simulate interactive solar systems using accurate and real algorithms. Players can create planets that can be comprehensively customized in a wide variety of ways such as terrain textures, ocean levels, and the colors of every element. Planets then interact with each other and the star that the player has customized to create a solar system that behaves realistically. For example, a planet can harbor water if it is the right distance from the sun and contains atmospheric gases. Finally, players can contribute by creating planets and placing them into other people's solar systems in real-time.
The AUK Center for Research in Informatics, Sciences, and Engineering (RISE) serves as AUK's primary source for multidisciplinary research and development (R&D) activities. The Center employs a holistic approach to R&D by integrating academic disciplines, and forging connections between local & international innovators, academia & industry, and technology & society.
Kuwait Projects Company (KIPCO) is an investment holding company with operations that extend across the Middle East and North African region, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Sea. With holdings in sectors such as financial services, media, manufacturing and real estate, KIPCO Group comprises over 60 companies and employs over 12,000 people in 24 countries. Founded in 1975, KIPCO has since become one of the MENA region’s most successful companies.
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