A sketched picture of James' head

James Smith

Building a better future out of code

Planet Hopper

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A couple of weeks ago, I went along to ISIC in Harwell to take part in the International Space Apps Challenge, run by NASA. Hackdays are always fun, but this one was particularly exciting, because, you know, SPACE!

At first I thought about doing something with Earth observation data and climate change, but decided I’d give myself a break from that and do something else for once. After the usual shenanigans forming a team, a few of us started working on something to do with exoplanet data, particularly from the Kepler satellite.

We know about tons of planets now, but most people don’t know much about them. We decided to make something a bit fun and a bit educational. My sister is a physics teacher, so we aimed at creating something she could use in class to stimulate questions from the kids.

The result is Planet Hopper, a webapp that allows you to explore the exoplanets and see various interesting facts about them in a friendly way. For instance, we tell you how old you would be on the planet, hoping to stimulate the question ‘why?’

We ended up winning the best hack prize at the Harwell site, and are currently in the global judging round, which is always nice.

Technically, this was my first experience with Django. In general, my first assessment was that it seemed perfectly capable, but not as slick as the Rails toolset perhaps. I’ll keep playing with it though, it’s always good to know more!

If you want to improve Planet Hopper, you can do; the code is, as always, on github.

UPDATE: We won in the global judging! “Most Inspiring” - pretty sweet!


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