Sri Lanka’s own Team Codon, consisting of Moratuwa University students, is the first Sri Lankan team and the third South Asian team to advance to the world finals after receiving the global nomination for the first time in the history of NASA International Space Apps Challenge
NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge is an international hackathon that takes place over 48 hours in cities around the world where coders, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers, builders, technologists, and every space enthusiast come together to address challenges faced on Earth and in space.
Started in 2012 with the Open Government Partnership, Space Apps is an annual event that pulls citizens together to tackle a challenge using robotics, data visualization, hardware, design and many other specialties.
This year the 6th Space App Challenge was held on April 28 and 29 in 187 locations around world with the participation of 25,140 members from 69 countries.
Team Codon consists of Vindula Jayawardana, the team leader, Tharindu Kumarage, Kanchana Ruwanpathirana, Janaka Chathuranga, Chamod Weerasingle and Nadun De Silva from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and Department of Electronic and Telecommunication, University of Moratuwa.
Describing the team’s journey team leader, Vindula Jayawardana said that as Sri Lanka was not among the 187 locations that were local competitors of US, they had to participate in a virtual hackathon. Competing with 3,000 participants the team received a global nomination in the global judging round.
Thereafter Team Codon competed in the global semi-finals and was selected as one of the five world finalists for the category of ‘Galactic Impact’ along with four other teams from USA, Spain and Singapore.
Their website ‘GeneX’ which comes with the tagline, ‘We refine the world’ and the motive, ‘Let’s survive together’ is the brain child of Team Codon.
According to Jayawardana migration of genes or ‘gene flow’ is influenced by a variety of factors including physiology, mobility, climate changes, human activities and human population. The interplay of these factors leads to unique patterns of gene flow and local adaptation for different species in the same environment and vice versa.
“Understanding these patterns of flow is important not only to advance the knowledge of ecology and evolution, but also to guide the management of threatened and endangered species,” explained Jayawardana. GeneX attempts to map and compare population genetics of different species with landscape features, climate conditions, and human activities in a region to identify potential barriers or facilitators to gene migration and local adaptation.
According to Jayawardana, one of the aims of creating the website, GeneX is to educate the public about the factors that affect the gene flow and local adaptation.