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Pinoy-made tech systems to join NASA global hackathon

Two teams from the Philippines are advancing to National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Global Space Apps Challenge for their ocean garbage collector and dengue mapper systems. 

Members of team Ocean’s 4 who developed PaWIKAN, an ocean waste collecting system, together with Space Apps leader Dr. Paula Bontempi and other officials.
Garbage collector

De La Salle University electronics and communications engineering students Samantha Maxine Santos, Antonio Miguel S. Alejo, Grant Lewis Bulaong, and Janos Lance L. Tiberio of Team Ocean’s 4, who also joined the last year’s hackathon, developed a deployable autonomous ocean waste collection system utilizing NASA’s Ocean Surface Current Analysis Real-time data to determine possible locations of ocean garbage patches using GPS.

Dubbed PaWiKAN, it uses a pair of deployable, dynamically reconfigurable boats capable of trapping and returning ocean waste back to ground. It is equipped with extended-range radio system based on LoRa technology and Arduino to communicate with sensors and controlled by a deployment station. 

“Our global bodies of water are actually littered with plastics. This is a very futuristic solution to help get rid of plastics currently floating or submerged in global waters. It is timely and relevant solution,” said Monchito B. Ibrahim, industry development committee chairman of the Analytics Association of the Philippines and former undersecretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

Dengue mapper

Meanwhile, Team Aedes, composed of Dominic Vincent D. Ligot, Mark Toledo, Frances Claire Tayco, and Jansen Dumaliang Lopez, developed a forecasting model of dengue cases using climate and digital data and pinpointing possible hotspots from satellite data.

Correlating information from Sentinel-2 Copernicus and Landsat 8 satellites, DOST-PAGASA for climate, and trends from search engines, potential dengue hotspots will be displayed in a web interface.

Indices like Fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index are used in identifying areas with green vegetation while Normalized Difference Water Index to identify areas with water. According to the developers, combining these indices reveal potential areas of stagnant water capable of being breeding grounds of mosquitoes.

The system aims to offer a solution to the nations plagued by dengue. Here in the Philippines, the World Health Organization recorded 271,480 dengue cases from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31 this year. A total 1,107 deaths was recorded in that period. 

“It benefits the community especially those countries suffering from malaria and dengue, just like the Philippines. I think it has a global impact. This is the new science to know the potential areas where dengue might occur. It is a good app,” enthused Engr. Raul C. Sabularse, deputy executive director of the Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCIEERD).

Ibrahim added, “It is very relevant to the Philippines and other countries which usually have problems with dengue. The team was able to show that it’s not really difficult to have all the data you need and integrate all of them and make them accessible to everyone for them to be able to use it. It’s a working model. It is something can actually be made usable in a short span of six months.”

The two finalists won the NASA Space Apps Challenge held in October in Manila. The competition, now in its eighth year, is an international hackathon for coders, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers, builders, technologists, and others in cities around the world, where teams engage with NASA’s free and open data to address real-world problems on Earth and in space.

Members of team Ocean’s 4 who developed PaWIKAN, an ocean waste collecting system, together with Space Apps leader Dr. Paula Bontempi and other officials.
Space Apps leader Dr. Paula S. Bontempi, the acting deputy director of the Earth Science Mission, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate was impressed of these solutions presented in Manila.

“The top two are really good. There were definitely a few projects right behind them. There is a lot of good talent out there. It was nice to see,” said Bontempi.

Rex Lor from United Nations Development Programme in the Philippines commended the use of the Sustainable Development Goals on Good Health and Well-Being, and Life Below Water of the winning solutions showcasing the “pivotal role of cutting-edge digital technologies in the creation of strategies for sustainable development in the face of evolving development issues.”

Space Apps 2019 included over 29,000 participants at more than 230 events in 80 countries. 

The event in the Philippines was held in collaboration with the Philippine Council for Industry, DOST-PCIEERD, Animo Labs technology business incubator, PLDT InnoLab, American Corner Manila, the US government, and part of the Design Week Philippines with Department of Trade and Industry-Design Center of the Philippines.

Both champions will join teams around the world to be evaluated by NASA to approximately select the top 30 projects as global finalists in early December, and the top six winners will be announced in January 2020. Winners shall be invited to visit the NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Florida in 2020.

Last year, team iNON used a citizen science platform by NASA to develop an application seeking to communicate scientific data to fishermen even without Internet connection, which led them to victory as the first Pinoy global winner. Their project called ISDApp is currently being incubated by Animo Labs.

Topics: National Aeronautics and Space Administration , Global Space Apps Challenge , Samantha Maxine Santos , Antonio Miguel Alejo , Grant Lewis Bulaong , James Tiberio
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