A blog post on the International NASA Space Apps Challenge describes the event as a kind of “global mass collaboration” which is “aiming to leverage space data in new and interesting ways.” Throughout the NASA Space Apps weekend in April 2014, teams from Toronto and around the world were challenged to use open data sets to solve problems for space exploration, as well as for communities here on planet earth. Topics ranged from addressing coastal flooding, to capturing an asteroid.
Held at the Ontario Science Centre, the 2014 Space Apps Toronto featured a distinctive NASA Youth Space Challenge. Building on the 2013 youth event, Hive Toronto organizations including Kids Learning Code, Meat Locker Editions, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), and FabSpaces joined Mozilla to offer innovative programming to make the ideals of the challenge accessible for youth through a Hive pop-up. The event was aimed towards youth ages 9-15. In addition to the organizations that provided programming, teens from the YWCA Girls’ Council were also present to provide volunteer support and mentorship during the event.
Many youth who attended the Toronto youth challenge had the processes of science and innovation opened up for them by participating in a Google hangout featuring NASA astronaut Douglas H. Wheelock (aka @Astro_Wheels) and European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli. Hanging out with astronauts was only the beginning however. The Google hangout was hosted by Beth Beck, the NASA Open Innovation Program Manager, who was onsite in Toronto and she paid an extended visit to the youth challenge participants.
Beth’s talk to the Toronto youth emphasized the critical role that citizens can play in solving scientific challenges. Beth’s discussion of citizen involvement was particularly relevant if we consider youth to be the next generation who will steward citizen science and open innovation processes globally. The kinds of programming designed by Hive Toronto members for the NASA Youth Space Challenge, explicitly attempted to build the making, experiential education, and problem-solving capacities that may scaffold towards openness in the future. Challenging youth to handle fragments of real meteorites with ROM educators, or imagine themselves in a Mission Control setting with FabSpaces are components of opening up science. Opening up innovation, may require writing your own story, producing your own media, or making use of data and information gathered from the open web, as programmed by Meat Locker Editions, Kids Learning Code and Mozilla.
Video clips describing stations from Toronto’s NASA Youth Space Challenge are available for Kids Learning Code, FabSpaces and Mozilla below. These clips were created by videographer Rachel Sulman and produced by Ashley Jane Lewis and are shared here with their permission. A photo gallery is also available to review highlights of the NASA Youth Space Challenge event. Finally, as the last item in this mission recap, let me extend thanks to Ashley Jane Lewis, Toronto Space Apps Challenge Youth Coordinator, Colin Lacey, for event management, and the entire organization team for creating this learning opportunity for Toronto youth.