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NASA aims to hack climate change

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Climate change seems one of those huge challenges that demands solutions from equally huge and global organizations.  After all, we’ve recently seen the conclusion of a conference with just such bodies in Peru where climate change was the topic of conversation.

That isn’t to say that more grassroots efforts haven’t been attempted over the past few years.  Earlier this summer for instance, I attended the global Hack4Good hackathon event, whereby people from around the world converged to try and develop some smart solutions to various climate related problems.

The summer also saw the announcement of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence’sClimate CoLab, which is an open innovation challenge around the topic of climate change.

The contest saw hundreds of ideas proposed, before 34 winners were selected across 17 categories.  Whilst the Hack4Good weekend was notable for the fact that all participants had to devise something actionable by the end of the event, the Climate CoLab winners included some that could only be actioned by others.

For instance, one of the more contentious categories was a prompt to design a national carbon price in the US, with the two winners creating various designs, which would obviously need quite a bit more work before they could be delivered.

The Climate Resilience Data Challenge

Not to be outdone, space agency NASA launched this month the Climate Resilience Data Challenge on coding website TopCoder.

The project was established through a partnership with Harvard (and of course TopCoder).  The hope is that external developers will be able to construct innovative applications to make use of the vast amount of often unused data collected by NASA and other organizations around the topic of climate.

“Federal agencies, such as NASA and the USGS, traditionally focus on developing world-class science data to support scientific research, but the rapid growth in the innovation community presents new opportunities to encourage wider usage and application of science data to benefit society,” NASA said. “We need tools that utilize federal data to help our local communities improve climate resilience, protect our ecosystems, and prepare for the effects of climate change.”

The first stage of the project is very much one of ideation, with NASA reaching out to developers to ask what exactly is needed from the data provided in order for apps to be created with it.

“With growing climate risk, it is evermore necessary to grow innovative capacity for resilience and adaptation. Using open climate data, imagine the possibilities of new applications that could fuel climate resilience efforts for communities and ecosystems as well as empower people to make smart decisions for the future. NASA and USGS invite you to take a step toward resilience by imagining solutions to our planet’s complex climate risks.”

The first ideation phase runs from the 15th December to January 18th, with a storyboarding phase following that, and finally a prototyping phase sometime around March next year.

The challenge has a prize fund of around $35,000 available for participants, although it’s likely, as with most open innovation projects, that participants main aspiration will be to do some good for the planet.

Check out the video below for more information.

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