Yes, ‘the’ Tim Peake. The British Astronaut who is now on the International Space Station for his 6 month mission. He was on skype from Houston and answering questions about life on the space station.
What do you do on the space station?
“We carry out research, we exercise … we need to be comfortable but also want to wear something we like the look of.”
Do you carry things around?
“There’s a lot to do on the space station. We have things to check and fix. We need to be able to carry around a toolkit and use it without it floating off.”
Would you wear a onsie?
I don’t know. A onesie seems comfy to me but I guess there are more important considerations in space. Why I spoke to him was as part of a team at the NASA Space Apps Challenge. It was held at the Met Office in Exeter which was one of the UK locations for the 2014 challenge. NASA hold the challenge every year. Anyone can enter and take part. You register and turn up at the location, hear what ideas are being put forward, join a team and create with whatever skills you have.
Want to take part?
Register on the Space Apps Challenge website.
What’s a hackathon?
It was my first hackathon and I had no idea what to expect. I work in technology as a digital designer but I don’t do the backend complicated code type stuff and I thought that was what a hackathon was all about but I had to give it a try. Would there be anything for me to do?
The idea I joined was to create wearable technology for an Astronaut. It was put forward by Jon Spooner (Unlimited Space Agency) and Jon Rogers (Dundee Uni). They go to schools and talk about how exciting space is. Their patron is Tim Peake.
Saturday – day one
The team was introduced to each other. There were fashion students and teachers from Exeter College, myself and another IT person, 2 web developers, Jon Spooner and Jon Rogers. We started with ideas, with drawing lots of ideas. We then spoke about all the ideas and settled on creating a comfortable spacesuit with a mission badge that lit up as it was connected to social media. The idea came from connection. We thought that Tim Peake’s family could use it to communicate with him in space.
Then we created. Well, this is how it went…creating, talking, creating, talking, revising, changing, creating, talking, going to other teams for help/advice, creating, etc etc… sewing machines appeared, badges were sketched, material cut, arduinos tinkered with, tapping on laptops, coffee, food, lots of wires, soldering, coding, drawing, gluing, sewing etc etc.
Sunday – day two
I arrived back at the Met Office in the morning and found that some people had worked through the night. That’s the thing about a hackathon, a weekend is not long to create something that’s never been created before. You get so excited about the project that you’ll work through the night. Here’s the final result which was presented to the other teams as we also heard about their projects.
What I liked about the hackathon
I had easily found things to do in the team even thought I’m not a coder because creating something in a short space of time just needs people to offer and go for it with a range of skills. From helping the fashion students to go with their ideas and not be afraid of technology, to sawing and gluing a case for the battery to sit in, to drawing shapes in pixels that could be displayed when the tweets came through.
The team won best mission concept 2014.