Space Hackathon 2018
UAE Space Hackathon 2018 winners, from left: Alison Waterman, Prince Steven Annor, and Nathalie Launder.

NYUAD Students Win UAE Space Hackathon

Students wrote code to survey atmospheric density and dust on Mars

NYU Abu Dhabi sophomores Alison Waterman, Prince Steven Annor, and Nathalie Launder are the 2018 champions of the UAE Space Hackathon hosted by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre and Government of Dubai.

Team NYUAD was shortlisted along with four other teams from around the UAE, and won the competition held in Dubai in February.

Hackathon Challenge

"Imagine if ..."

  • You have the opportunity to send an orbiter to Mars to contribute to the human exploration of the Red Planet
  • Your orbiter should study characteristics of Mars’ surface or lower atmosphere 
  • Your orbiter includes at least one of the following sensors: Luminosity Sensor, Temperature Sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Magnetometer, Ultra Violet Light Sensor, Infrared Thermopile, and RGB (red, green, blue) Sensor

Team NYUAD Proposal

Our proposal was to survey atmospheric density and dust profiles in the lower atmosphere of Mars. Similar to techniques used by the MAVEN satellite and other Mars missions, we proposed to use accelerometer data to calculate atmospheric density. We also proposed to survey dust conditions using the RGB sensor, luminosity sensor, and temperature sensor.

During the competition, we were given two hours to upload our code to an ArduSat (Arduino-based nanosatellite) and collect and display data using the ArduSat Ehub program. We had the opportunity to ask questions to the panel of Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre engineers, who mentored us as we worked on the code.

NYUAD students Alison Waterman and Nathalie Launder compete at the UAE Space Hackathon 2018. MBR Space Centre
NYUAD students Alison Waterman and Nathalie Launder compete at the UAE Space Hackathon 2018. MBR Space Centre

“We used different tools (varying temperature, light intensity, dust color, shaking/moving the ArduSat, etc.) to simulate the experiment and verify that our code would work for data collection in a real-world situation.

After this time period, we had to give a 10-minute presentation detailing our proposal, the scientific importance of our experiment, our hypothesis/expected findings. The scoring was 40 percent based on the code, and 60 percent based on the presentation of the scientific aspects.

About the Winners

Prince Steven Annor
Computer engineering
Ghana

Nathalie Launder
Biology
Australia

Alison Waterman
Electrical engineering
USA

Why Study Mars?

  1. Determine if Mars ever supported life
  2. Understand the processes of history and climate
  3. Understand the origin and evolution of Mars as a geological system
  4. Prepare for human exploration

-Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center