Second EOvation hackathon in Poland

Between the 26th and 27th of May in Gdansk an EOVation event was held. This hackathon focused on the use of Earth Observation data for applications in the Middle East and South Asia.

Since November 2016 the EOClimLab project is being realised in Poland, Czech Republic and Romania. The project is commissioned by ESA. It’s purpose is to use satellite data for a better or new perspective on the subject of climate change. Among several activities within the project, also hackathons are organised by the consortium. These events are called EOvations and gather not only programmers and engineers or Earth Observation (EO) specialists but also representatives from other fields, including humanities and enthusiasts. Together, participants of EOvations have to create a preliminary application concept in a short amount of time (ca. 24 hours).

Oriental hackaton

On the 26th and 27th of May the second Polish hackathon was held under the EOClimLab project in Gdańsk. This event, called “Oriental EOvation” was devoted to the use of EO data in the Middle East and Asia in the context of regional problems related to climate change.

Team work was carried out with the support of scientific, technical and business-investment experts. There were several preliminary challenges available for participants to choose from. These challenges concerned, inter alia, the issue of rising sea levels, the drought-related situations in the Middle East and the relationship between man and the surrounding environment.

At the start of the hackathon four teams were formed. Two of them after several hours decided to join forces, creating a new team.

Results of Oriental EOvation hackathon

After 24 hours of intensive work, on the 27th of May, in the afternoon the teams presented their results. There were three solutions, one of which was more hardware based and the other two focused mainly on data processing from Earth Observation satellites.

The “Syrian Rebuild Map” team was selected as a winner. This team proposed the use of several different satellite-data indicators to assess and prioritize the reconstruction of individual Syrian regions after the ongoing civil war. The application showed trends of places where drought will continue as well as places where it will be possible to develop agriculture more optimally. Members of this team demonstrated the basic features of the future application, which was appreciated by the jury.

The other two teams also achieved some results. The other proposed two concepts focused on optimizing pipelines of desalination water from the Gulf of Aqaba into Jordan and a general hardware + data flood warning system.

All teams have been rewarded with vouchers, time to work with experts, access to a satellite data cloud, access to office space and a set of microelectronic circuits and sensors.

The event was organised by Blue Dot Solutions in support of the Black Pearls VC Fund, the Gdańsk University of Technology Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, the O4 Coworking, the Nauka o Klimacie webservice, and the EO Cloud Technological Partner.

Next hackathons in Poland

The next dedicated hackathons under the EOClimLab project in Gdańsk will take place in the second half of this year. This time the subject will be the use of Earth Observation data for the Pomeranian region. In Warsaw, an EOvation hackathon also took place on the 3rd – 4th of June.

The consortium of the EOCLimLab from Poland is composed of Omnilogy, Blue Dot Solutions, Orange, Integrated Solutions and Kapitech. On the Czech side the partners are Czech Invest and SpaceSystems Czech, and on the Romanian side there are three IT partners: Arobs Transilvania Software, Aries Transilvania and Indeco Soft.

‘Climbing a mountain is a great metaphor for PTSD’

Since returning from Antarctica many people have asked me the same question: “What was it like?” My honest answer is I can’t put it in to words, but I will do my best here!

It’s probably easiest to explain it physically. Despite the 24-hour daylight and light winds the temperature could reach as low as -30°C to -40°C. The snow wasn’t light and fluffy like I imagined it would be, instead it was hard and compacted, but like sugar underneath the surface. Walking was hard work made even harder by the weight we carried or dragged in the pulks which we used for the first three days to get to low camp.

We always walked in single file and mostly travelled roped together as one team of five. This would provide us with some protection if we were to fall through the snow pack into a crevasse, but meant we had no real opportunity to talk and it was just you and your own thoughts hour after hour.

Deafening silence

The silence was truly deafening at times. There were no animals, no traffic or planes – just miles and miles of whiteness unbroken by trees or plants or buildings.

In the evenings, we would get together in one tent to eat and discuss the plan for the following day.  Sleeping was difficult, the 24-hour daylight threw our body clocks out and as we climbed higher the altitude added to the difficulty. I don’t think anyone slept at all the night before our summit attempt. I remember lying awake at 3:00am thinking, “let’s just go now!”

Morning of the summit bid finally came and we started slowly for the top, 16,050ft (4,892m) above sea level. The pace was slow, breathing was laboured and I had started to feel the effects of the altitude but finally the summit ridge was just before us. The final few hindered metres were the toughest – my head was swimming and I was almost in a dream-like state.

Hard work pays off

The summit ridge requires a little thought to negotiate, there are a few places which are exposed and you need to take your time, but all the hard work paid off after what felt like an eternity along the ridge: The summit! The whole team on top! Together!

The views were truly indescribable. The weather was perfect and we could see for miles. I remember looking out, trying to take it all in – the silence, the peace and the feeling that we were truly alone.

It was a huge privilege to share a little bit of that experience with everyone back home, family and friends, sponsors and people following and supporting the team all over the world, with a live feed from the summit ridge of Mt Vinson.

World first

We believe that was a world first and only possible thanks to the communications package provided by Inmarsat. The IsatPhone 2 satellite phones, BGAN and IsatHub terminals gave us the ability to communicate with the world during the expedition, through social media, interviews and phone calls home. It enhanced our safety, and gave us confidence and our loved ones’ peace of mind.

Being part of a team and participating in challenging adventures has played a huge role in my recovery and rehabilitation, it allows me time away from the everyday things that can be triggers and aggravate my symptoms.

Climbing and mountaineering is also a great metaphor for what we go through with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Just getting out of bed and facing the world can be a huge mental mountain to climb, and I have had days where I have wanted to give up and end it all, but somehow you get through it and it’s like reaching the summit with your team, you feel like you are on top of the world!

About the author

Danny Claricoates is a former Royal Marines Commando who was deployed to Afghanistan for two operational tours. A diagnosis of PTSD led to his medical discharge in 2011. 65 Degrees North’s remit of ‘rehabilitation through adventure’ helped him move forward with his life beyond the armed forces.

Danny, who now runs his own business delivering outdoor activities to young people, is passionate about breaking down barriers and talking about mental health. His hope is to help others by sharing his own story.