Virtual Hackathon to Study COVID-19 Impact on Environment in June


COVID-19 has completely upended our lives. Apart from the unimaginable loss of human lives, the coronavirus pandemic has also impacted the environment in many ways. For example, the enormous amount of medical waste generated due to the crisis definitely has had a huge impact on our environment. But the scale of this is yet not known. So, the space agencies of the US, Japan, and the European Union have decided to host a hackathon next month to study those effects over the past year.

The Earth Observation Dashboard Hackathon will be hosted virtually from June 23-29 and registrations for the week-long event are now open. It is aimed at allowing participants to take advantage of powerful Earth observation tools to study the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the environment. Participants at the hackathon will be divided into teams and asked to solve various socioeconomic and environmental challenges using data gathered during the duration of the pandemic.

NASA has urged all coders, entrepreneurs, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers, builders, artists, and technologists to join the event. It said the issues that will be covered are air and water quality, economic, social, and agricultural impacts, greenhouse gas effects, and interconnected Earth system impacts.


In June last year, the three agencies set up a dashboard to record the short- and long-term impacts of pandemic-related restrictions around the world. Participants will use data from the interactive resource and study them to throw light on the environmental impact of the pandemic. They can also offer solutions to help improve the dashboard.

Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science, said the agencies realised that if they combine forces, they could bring a more powerful set of analytical tools to understand the environmental, social, and economic impacts of the pandemic.

“In the face of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the three agencies created the Earth Observing Dashboard to release the joint analysis results of satellite data last June,” said Koji Terada, Vice President and Director-General for the Space Technology Directorate I at Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).


Toni Tolker-Nielsen, Director of Earth Observation Programmes at European Space Agency (ESA), said the dashboard allows them to compare critical information over different areas at different times.

It’s Google I/O time this week on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast, as we discuss Android 12, Wear OS, and more. Later (starting at 27:29), we jump over to Army of the Dead, Zack Snyder’s Netflix zombie heist movie. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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