LUT students win Finnish championship in NASA programming competition

Students of green information technology at Lappeenranta University of Technology, LUT won the Finnish championship in an international programming competition of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The aim of the competition is to create applications based on open data which would be of significance to life on earth and in space.

The winning entry was the light-hearted Ways to Die mobile application with which it is possible to look into the future to see what would be a likely way to die as a result of climate change. The app is based on climate information and forecasts from 1950 to 2099 collected by NASA and distributed as open data.

"Our work is an easy-to-use and playful application to be linked with Facebook. But our message is ultimately a serious one, as the purpose of the application is to wake people up around the world to think about the impact that their activities have on climate change and what they could do to prevent it", says Maria Victoria Palacin, a member of the winning team.

The International Space Apps Challenge event took place April 11−13. Eight teams took part in the Finnish leg of the open international competition, which took place in Tampere. The works of three teams won prizes and one of them, the work of the "Drunk Puppy Tea Theatre" group was chosen as the most inspiring.

Competing in the multinational winning team were LUT master's students Maria Victoria Palacin from Peru, Vlad Cristea from Romania, and Maike Schmidt from Germany. In addition to them, competing in the same ream were Tampere University of Applied Sciences students Katya Abakumova from Russia, Dumitry Coretchi from Moldova, and Philippe Luickx from Belgium, who is already employed.

"What is fun here is that we took part in the competition quite by chance. I follow Barack Obama on Twitter. He recently tweeted that the United States is disseminating open information on climate change. Behind the tweet there was information on this competition, and we thought that we would take part, because we had been thinking of producing a mobile app anyway. So the competition popped up in front of us as if we had ordered it", Palacin rejoices.

In practice the young contestants produced the Ways to Die app last weekend in a period of 48 hours at a factory assembly hall in Tampere. The team also produced a YouTube video marketing their application.

"We didn't sleep much but the arrangements were magnificent. We were treated very well and in the two days we were offered food, energy drinks, and naturally space bowling", Vlad Cristea says.

At the same time 95 similar competitions were held around the world. However, not all winners will get in the finals - they have been asked to produce videos for the app competition. The teams that will continue their journey to the United States in August for the finals of the competition will be chosen on the basis of the videos. The judges for the finals are NASA astronauts.

The winning LUT competitors are students at LUT's international EU-funded Erasmus Mundus PERCCOM master's programme, whose main theme is sustainable development and green information technology. The students study in turn in France, Finland, Russia, and Sweden.

Further information:

Jari Porras, jari.porras@lut.fi, tel. +358 400 555 427
Maria Victoria Palacin, mavipasi@gmail.com

The winning entry: https://2014.spaceappschallenge.org/project/drunk-puppy-tea-theatre/
The competition itself: https://2014.spaceappschallenge.org/location/tampere/ https://2014.spaceappschallenge.org/about/
Photos: http://goo.gl/SucgjS