Wichita Space Apps Hackathon announces winners of NASA challenge

A weekend of ample research and little sleep at Wichita State’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) resulted in the selection of three NASA Space Apps Hackathon winners.

One-man team Just Jacob, led by Jacob Workentine, a Wichita state senior in communication, took first place for his submission to the On the Way to the Sun challenge.

Workentine developed an illustrated children’s book and accompanying video inspired by PBS’s Reading Rainbow program. The book and video focused on the story of the Parker Solar Probe’s record-breaking mission from Earth through the Sun’s upper atmosphere to sample particles and magnetic fields.

“As the only non-STEM major in the competition and the only team of one, it kind of felt like the odds were stacked against me,” said Workentine. “I’m still in disbelief about this weekend and can’t wait to see where this idea will lead me.” 

The second place team, Space Jam, developed an app called Surreal that uses NASA data to illustrate the correlation between climate change and natural disasters. A demo of the app is available on YouTube. Space Jam team members include Grant Johnson, Murphy Ownbey, Greg Heiman, Akim Niyonzima, Dimitri Seneviratne and Fernando Rubio Garcia.

Heiman, Ownbey, Niyonzima and Seneviratne are Wichita State seniors in engineering. Garcia is pursing his Ph.D. in applied mathematics and Johnson is project manager for Invista.

The third place team of WSU engineering students Ami Goto, Kazune Tazawa, Aoi Ito, Fransiera Maldonado Mundo and Kubeshavarsha Kalithasan, developed a website to help plot and understand seismic data from the moon.

The challenge was open to the community including all ages, backgrounds and skill levels. All teams used NASA’s open-source data to complete their project solutions.

The event was hosted by NIAR’s Advanced Technologies Lab for Aerospace Systems Oct. 1-2.

“We hosted the challenge to provide an opportunity to put the talent of Wichitans on the map in a global challenge,” said Waruna Seneviratne, research scientist and director of NIAR ATLAS. “It was a fun and challenging experience for all involved, and we hope to build a bigger and better Space Apps hackathon for Wichita next year.”

The first and second place teams received $500 and a trip to visit Dassault Systèmes’, a sponsor of the Wichita Space Apps competition. Additional sponsors included NIAR ATLAS and Solvay. These sponsors helped fund program materials, meals and additional prizes for the participants.