NASA and IBM have announced they're teaming up for the space agency's fourth annual "space apps hackathon," inviting scientists, developers, entrepreneurs and students to help create technology aimed at space exploration.
The Space Apps Challenge involves 10,000 participants around the world attacking more than 25 challenges under four main themes of Earth, Outer Space, Humans and Robotics.
The challenge "is a two-day hackathon where teams of technologists, scientists, designers, artists, educators, entrepreneurs, developers and students across the globe collaborate and engage with publicly available data to design innovative solutions for global challenges," the event organizers say on their website.
Originally created to let the space agency take advantage of innovative ideas and technology developed outside its own research facilities, the "hackathon" has become an opportunity for NASA, technology companies and universities to conduct a global technology talent hunt.
For this year's event, IBM has joined to provide cloud services to people participating in the hackathon, including giving access to its Watson supercomputer for participants wanting to crunch NASA data available from 200 of the space agency's data sources.
"IBM is supporting the NASA Space App Challenge because we saw a great opportunity to contribute to an important cause," says Sandy Carter, general manager of IBM's Cloud Ecosystem and Developers.
"Not only are we helping participants build applications that will be used to improve space exploration and life on earth - two initiatives that impact all of humanity - but we're also helping them build their skills for cloud development while helping to cultivate an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields."
In addition to coming up with creative solutions to real problems, the challenge is designed to encourage creative and entrepreneurial thinking and explore the joys of programming.
Also collaborating in the event, set for April 10-12, are companies such as Google, Microsoft and Intel.
Participants in 136 cities will attempt to collaboratively develop software, mobile apps, hardware, platform solutions and data visualization; NASA judges will select hackathon winners in five categories including "most inspiring" and "best use of data."
Two projects from each city will be chosen to advance to global judging, event organizers say.
Winners could see their apps incorporated into various NASA projects, the space agency says.