NASA Space Apps Challenge produces six global winners from a pool of nearly 1,300 projects.

Analytics, visualizations, 3-D printing and a space plane!

NASA's 2016 Space Apps Challenge, which was held in April in more than 70 countries, produced 1,287 projects.   And this week, the space agency announced the six projects that emerged as global winners.

Canaria, a 3-D printed earpiece that monitors a wide range of vital signs along with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, won the Best Use of Hardware award.  The device warns a wearer when conditions are unsafe and transmits the gathered data via Bluetooth for further analysis.

FractalNet took the Best Mission Concept award.  Intended to provide a communications network in underground environments where radio transmissions are not practical, FractalNet pairs a "data glove" with a network of wireless devices that would be placed throughout a cave system as the astronauts explored it.

Kid On The Moon, an interactive app aimed at children 4-8 years old, claimed the Most Inspirational Award. The prototype app allows kids to unlock lunar images and other data and aims "to inspire passion for space travel."

The Galactic Impact award went to Live Ice Velocity Estimation (LIVE) Glacier Project, which provides visualizations of glacier surfaces in near-real time to help monitor climate change.  The tool leverages European Space Agency imagery and NASA-provided environmental variables, while also collecting crowdsourced photos of the glaciers in question.

The Mars Hopper concept plane won the People's Choice award.  Designed to explore the Martian polar regions, the Hopper would use solidified CO2 -- dry ice -- as its power source, as that substance is readily available on Mars' surface.  The plane remains hypothetical, but the project team wrote that its calculations "showed that this project is possible with existing technologies." 

And the Best Use of Data award went to Scintilla, a web portal that collects both sensor data and social media data, conducting sentiment analysis on the latter to determine human assessments of local air quality.  The project, which leverages Environmental Protection Agency monitoring stations and Microsoft Azure cognitive tools, has the stated goal of "democratizing air quality data collection."

The winners were chosen from a pool of 30 finalists; details on all those projects can be found on the Space Apps Challenge website.

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