Courtesy of the JPL at

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in NASA’s Space Apps Challenge. Over the course of 80+ hours, hackers, artists, and geeks of all types from around the globe had a chance to create unique tools and resources using NASA’s data. Though Drexel’s ExCITe Center was both the Philadelphia and global headquarters for the event, I ended up working in the ExCITe center while remotely pairing with a team in Atlanta on a ruby gem for SkyMorph observation data.

NASA would not give us access to their observation database for our project, so we wrote a web scraper that would take the ugly html query results from their current interface and provide easier access to the data as a ruby gem. I paired with Zac Stewart, the Altanta event coordinator and a developer at Big Nerd Ranch, on writing the html parser portion of our SkyMorph gem. Our team also created a sweet little Sinatra app for viewing the parsed observation data and retrieving coordinating images. I was really pleased to work with such professional devs that used TDD and pairing throughout the project.

It was also nice to do something good for NASA. When I was in elementary school, I was in my school’s “future astronauts” club. With some help from NASA, we built model rockets, grew tomato seeds that had been sent into space, and generally geeked out during recess once a week. The club was a such a fun introduction to science for me, so I was glad to give something back:)

Update 20130426: My team’s project, Skymorph.rb, has been nominated for global judging. I am completely stunned …