iSchool students recognized for their work in International Space Apps Challenge

"Cats in Space" collaborators Jeff Chatham, Julia Skinner and Abilgail Phillips.
“Cats in Space” collaborators Jeff Chatham, Julia Skinner and Abilgail Phillips.

Florida State University School of Information doctoral students Julia Skinner and Abigail Phillips were recognized for their efforts in the International Space Apps Challenge, a global collaboration led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in mid-April.

The International Space Apps Challenge is an international mass collaboration focused on space exploration that took place over 48 hours in cities around the world. The event embraced collaborative problem solving with a goal of producing relevant open-source solutions to address global needs applicable to both life on Earth and life in space. NASA is leading this global collaboration along with a number of government collaborators and 100+ local organizations.

Skinner and Phillips, who worked with Florida A&M University computer science senior Jeff Chatham, earned the local award for “Best Use of Data” for their app, “Cats in Space,” which they used to tackle the project “Earth as Art.”

The group competed locally through Making Awesome, Tallahassee’s makerspace, a community of people who share tools, talents and materials to make real things that they couldn’t make with their own individual resources.

“Cats in Space” is an image collecting and organizing project, incorporating Flickr, Imgur, and Reddit, which encourages users are encouraged to upload, tag, and/or favorite images of cat-like, cat-inspired or cat-related images of Earth or space. In addition to the Flickr, Imgur, and Reddit streams, the trio developed an app ) that draws from these streams and encourages metadata creation by its users. Along with uploading images, users can vote from their favorite and/or “most cat-like” images.

“Cats in Space” includes photos of cat-like images identified in space and earth imagery. These cat-like phenomena are collected from satellite streams, NASA image databases, and user submissions.

“It is our hope that through this engaging and playful approach that users who are not familiar with satellite imagery of Earth and space will develop an interest while searching for cat-likeness in landmasses, cloud formations, lakes, etc.,” wrote Skinner. “Through browsing satellite live streams and NASA databases, users are exposed to the work that NASA is producing, the importance of scientific research to the world around them, and the beauty of our planet and universe.”