In just two years, Leslie Birch went from NASA hackathon participant to NASA advisor, so to speak.
The space agency recently announced the launch of its Datanauts program, where it chose a dozen women from the data, tech and maker communities to help them think about questions of data accessibility and applications. Birch is one of them.
She visited NASA headquarters for a day-long Datanauts event, where she met NASA big wigs, learned that a NASA staffer had used her first NASA hackathon project in a TED talk and heard from astronaut Cady Coleman, the first woman to successfully use the robotic arm of the International Space Station to capture an incoming ship. (That last part was her favorite moment of the day, Birch said.)
Here’s what Birch wrote to us about the project, which is being run by NASA and Second Muse (Second Muse also helps run NASA’s Space Apps hackathon and has staffers in Philly):
I feel like I’m often alone in Philly with my interests in environmental data, space and open-source hardware. Now I’ve been connected to women who share similar interests, so hopefully we will collaborate on a project. Of course my interest is building something more 3D like an architectural installation or wearable, so I’ve got my work cut out for me.
The cool thing is that NASA’s missions are bringing back tons of data. Most people think they are only focused on other planets, but often their work helps to show what is going on right here, especially with climate change. Their data does not get enough attention, mainly because it is not in the most user-friendly set-up. However, hopefully our new group will help bring some of these pieces of information to the attention of the world and encourage global change.
Birch was also recently invited to speak at a pre-NASA Space Apps bootcamp for women in New York, where she talked about winning New York’s Space Apps competition and showed attendees Arduino.
“Two girls became my buddies and they ended up participating in this year’s challenge :),” she wrote. “My goal to continue to encourage women is happening.”