In 2015 the Open Innovation team at NASA wanted to build a project that would allow NASA Datanauts to host their own hacking/making events. A member of the founding Datanauts class Dr. Kate Stone came on board to turn dream-to-reality using her trademark materials—plain paper and conductive ink to create a musical instrument that incorporated NASA’s data. The project was named fittingly, “Starry Night.”
One year (and several iterations) later the Starry Night project has traveled the country and the world, from California to New York, Florida, and most recently, Lisbon, Portugal at a Datanauts community event that brought together guests from more than 10 countries. The Starry Night project serves as the starting point from which Datanauts can collaborate, impart new skills and share their love for data science, technology and space exploration with diverse communities of all ages, backgrounds and interests. Datanauts community events are organized by the Datanauts themselves and are open to the public.
“We’ve got artists, environmental scientists, programmers, a graphic designer, a teacher, a fashion stylist, and a 6th grader joined us”
For Ms. Chin, her event presented an opportunity to gather ideas for social impact venture building, asking how can we use NASA’s open data to build products and services that improve our world? Ms. Chin brought together creative entrepreneurs and business leaders from Germany, UK, United States, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Australia, Switzerland, Portugal, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg. Many of the guests came to the event because they had a passion for space, science and the potential of open data in their industries. But a down-to-business mindset didn’t stop people from having a little fun—the Starry Night project evoked a sense of playfulness, delight and possibilities.
As with any new technology, there can be a few bumps along the way to success. It took some tinkering and trying, but soon enough all the dinner guests were “playing” their Starry Night instruments in a beautiful cacophony of NASA sounds from real missions mixed with drum beats and other electronic tones.
Digital mapmaker and space enthusiast Weibke Hurrelmann teaches herself new tools via free online courses. She came to learn about NASA Datanauts and how to access open data.
Starry Night is one of five collaborative projects currently in development within NASA Datanauts. With each community event, Datanauts incorporate user feedback and collaborate to improve the experience for future Datanauts classes and civilians alike. Watch here as Dr. Stone (class of 2015) works with Ms. Chin (class of 2016) the day before her community event in a moment of real-time problem-solving, luckily caught on tape by the Datanauts community management team!
Elyssa Dole is the NASA Datanaut Community Manager, and Space Apps Data Bootcamp Coordinator