MINERVA VOICES

Minerva University Team Wins NASA Space Apps Challenge in Mountain View

A conversation with Amina Rakhimbergenova, Class of 2027.

November 21, 2023

Congratulations on your win at the 2023 NASA Space Apps Challenge! Can you tell us more about your winning project and what inspired the idea?

We started off by choosing a challenge to tackle. Managing fire and increasing community-based fire management opportunities was at the intersection of our interests and skills. After brainstorming, we came up with the following guiding question: How might we warn and guide individuals to safety who lack internet or mobile access during a fire emergency?

Inspired by the emergency lighting on airplanes, we devised a similar, intuitive navigation system utilizing streetlights. This ended up being our hackathon solution - A-Prometheus - a highly efficient emergency information system that employs real-time NASA fire data to map the danger levels in the area, and based on the map and smart algorithms, builds the best path to safety, and navigates people with light signalization. 

More concretely, A-Prometheus’s main objective is to direct citizens to areas with the lowest potential level of being affected by wildfires. Based on data analysis from FIRMS, A-Prometheus utilizes a tool to determine the proximity of fire outbreaks to streetlights, considering factors like distance, wind speed, and humidity. It assigns a "danger level" to each streetlight, indicating safety levels in specific areas. This data is then used to optimize escape routes, guiding residents with lights that signal the direction to the nearest Safe Space. Citizens reaching a safe space provide feedback through a QR code, rating the convenience and safety of both the route and the Safe Space. This feedback refines the algorithm and assesses Safe Spaces based on additional conditions not considered in the initial algorithm. Our solution offers the community an invaluable tool in critical situations, and it can also assist First Responders in swiftly locating areas where residents have gathered. The pre-established Safe Spaces would be coordinated with emergency services to ensure their suitability for this purpose.

We opted to address the issue of wildfires from the perspective of communities that face the impact of fires on a yearly or even monthly basis. Given its simplicity but high efficiency, A-Prometheus has the potential to be applied globally.

What was your team's role distribution like in tackling the problem you settled on?

After brainstorming as a team, we devised roles for all teammates, yet remained flexible. Marina and Jacopo were responsible for writing the code, Emilia and Rere ensured the feasibility of our solution, and Kaan and Amina modeled and simulated the hardware mechanism.

Who were you competing against in the NASA Space Apps Challenge?

There were 216 teams registered to participate in the Space Apps Challenge in Mountain View, and ~30 of them pitched their solutions. Teams consisted of very diverse people, from high schoolers building rockets to startup founders, working engineers, and space enthusiasts from other fields. One team was even comprised of a father and his daughters presenting a space exploration game they created. Three winners were chosen, and we were placed first! 

How has your Minerva experience contributed to your performance in the hackathon?

Minerva’s Habits of Mind and Foundational Concepts (HCs) were instrumental in guiding our problem-solving process! We used #rightproblem to pinpoint the specific scenarios where fires cause the most harm, leading us to concentrate on individuals who are uninformed or unaware of a fire. We identified this group as being at the greatest risk. We then took into account multiple #constraints. One of them was the lack of internet connectivity in certain areas, leading us to devise a solution that doesn't rely on the internet: a MESH network. A major potential obstacle for us was cost - if our proposed solution turned out to be too expensive and intricate, it wouldn't have been practical to implement. Therefore, we focused on creating a solution that was both simple and cost-effective. In building the solution we used the #analogy HC, taking inspiration from the airplane emergency navigation systems!

What is next for you? How will you use this experience in the future?

We were selected as Global Nominees for the NASA Space Apps Challenge, so our solution is competing in the Global Final, the results of which will be announced in January 2024. This was an unforgettable experience, we learned to thrive under pressure, think quickly, and collaborate effectively to deliver innovative solutions. We all believe in A-Prometheus and would love to develop it further.

If you were inspired by Amina's story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, start your Minerva application today.


Quick Facts

Name
Country
Class
Major

Social Sciences & Business

Business & Computational Sciences

Business and Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Business

Computational Sciences & Social Sciences

Computer Science & Arts and Humanities

Business and Computational Sciences

Business and Social Sciences

Natural Sciences

Arts and Humanities

Business, Social Sciences

Business & Arts and Humanities

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Computer Science

Computational Sciences

Arts & Humanities

Computational Sciences, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Social Sciences

Social Sciences, Natural Sciences

Data Science, Statistics

Computational Sciences

Business

Computational Sciences, Data Science

Social Sciences

Natural Sciences

Business, Natural Sciences

Business, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences

Social Sciences

Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences

Natural Sciences

Computational Sciences, Social Sciences

Business, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Social Sciences

Social Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Science

Social Sciences, Business

Arts & Humanities

Computational Sciences, Social Science

Natural Sciences, Computer Science

Computational Science, Statistic Natural Sciences

Business & Social Sciences

Computational Science, Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Business

Business

Arts and Humanities

Computational Sciences

Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Computational Sciences

Social Sciences & Computational Sciences

Social Sciences & Arts and Humanities

Computational Science

Minor

Computational Science & Business

Economics

Social Sciences

Concentration

Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence & Cognition, Brain, and Behavior

Designing Societies & New Ventures

Strategic Finance & Data Science and Statistics

Brand Management and Designing Societies

Data Science & Economics

Machine Learning

Cells, Organisms, Data Science, Statistics

Arts & Literature and Historical Forces

Artificial Intelligence & Computer Science

Cells and Organisms, Mind and Emotion

Economics, Physics

Managing Operational Complexity and Strategic Finance

Global Development Studies and Brain, Cognition, and Behavior

Scalable Growth, Designing Societies

Business

Drug Discovery Research, Designing and Implementing Policies

Historical Forces, Cognition, Brain, and Behavior

Artificial Intelligence, Psychology

Designing Solutions, Data Science and Statistics

Data Science and Statistic, Theoretical Foundations of Natural Science

Strategic Finance, Politics, Government, and Society

Data Analysis, Cognition

Brand Management

Data Science and Statistics & Economics

Cognitive Science & Economics

Data Science and Statistics and Contemporary Knowledge Discovery

Internship
Higia Technologies
Project Development and Marketing Analyst Intern at VIVITA, a Mistletoe company
Business Development Intern, DoSomething.org
Business Analyst, Clean Energy Associates (CEA)

Conversation

Congratulations on your win at the 2023 NASA Space Apps Challenge! Can you tell us more about your winning project and what inspired the idea?

We started off by choosing a challenge to tackle. Managing fire and increasing community-based fire management opportunities was at the intersection of our interests and skills. After brainstorming, we came up with the following guiding question: How might we warn and guide individuals to safety who lack internet or mobile access during a fire emergency?

Inspired by the emergency lighting on airplanes, we devised a similar, intuitive navigation system utilizing streetlights. This ended up being our hackathon solution - A-Prometheus - a highly efficient emergency information system that employs real-time NASA fire data to map the danger levels in the area, and based on the map and smart algorithms, builds the best path to safety, and navigates people with light signalization. 

More concretely, A-Prometheus’s main objective is to direct citizens to areas with the lowest potential level of being affected by wildfires. Based on data analysis from FIRMS, A-Prometheus utilizes a tool to determine the proximity of fire outbreaks to streetlights, considering factors like distance, wind speed, and humidity. It assigns a "danger level" to each streetlight, indicating safety levels in specific areas. This data is then used to optimize escape routes, guiding residents with lights that signal the direction to the nearest Safe Space. Citizens reaching a safe space provide feedback through a QR code, rating the convenience and safety of both the route and the Safe Space. This feedback refines the algorithm and assesses Safe Spaces based on additional conditions not considered in the initial algorithm. Our solution offers the community an invaluable tool in critical situations, and it can also assist First Responders in swiftly locating areas where residents have gathered. The pre-established Safe Spaces would be coordinated with emergency services to ensure their suitability for this purpose.

We opted to address the issue of wildfires from the perspective of communities that face the impact of fires on a yearly or even monthly basis. Given its simplicity but high efficiency, A-Prometheus has the potential to be applied globally.

What was your team's role distribution like in tackling the problem you settled on?

After brainstorming as a team, we devised roles for all teammates, yet remained flexible. Marina and Jacopo were responsible for writing the code, Emilia and Rere ensured the feasibility of our solution, and Kaan and Amina modeled and simulated the hardware mechanism.

Who were you competing against in the NASA Space Apps Challenge?

There were 216 teams registered to participate in the Space Apps Challenge in Mountain View, and ~30 of them pitched their solutions. Teams consisted of very diverse people, from high schoolers building rockets to startup founders, working engineers, and space enthusiasts from other fields. One team was even comprised of a father and his daughters presenting a space exploration game they created. Three winners were chosen, and we were placed first! 

How has your Minerva experience contributed to your performance in the hackathon?

Minerva’s Habits of Mind and Foundational Concepts (HCs) were instrumental in guiding our problem-solving process! We used #rightproblem to pinpoint the specific scenarios where fires cause the most harm, leading us to concentrate on individuals who are uninformed or unaware of a fire. We identified this group as being at the greatest risk. We then took into account multiple #constraints. One of them was the lack of internet connectivity in certain areas, leading us to devise a solution that doesn't rely on the internet: a MESH network. A major potential obstacle for us was cost - if our proposed solution turned out to be too expensive and intricate, it wouldn't have been practical to implement. Therefore, we focused on creating a solution that was both simple and cost-effective. In building the solution we used the #analogy HC, taking inspiration from the airplane emergency navigation systems!

What is next for you? How will you use this experience in the future?

We were selected as Global Nominees for the NASA Space Apps Challenge, so our solution is competing in the Global Final, the results of which will be announced in January 2024. This was an unforgettable experience, we learned to thrive under pressure, think quickly, and collaborate effectively to deliver innovative solutions. We all believe in A-Prometheus and would love to develop it further.

If you were inspired by Amina's story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, start your Minerva application today.