29 December 2020

Winning projects of “FACH Hackathon” measured climate effects in wetland and glacier at the country’s heartland


The participant teams developed solutions to measure, monitor and predict the effects that climate change has on glaciers, wetlands and forest fires located in the outskirts of the city, by using data and high-resolution satellite images that were provided by SAF and Open Data Cube. The competition included the enthusiastic participation of 47 teams made up of citizens, undergraduate and graduate students, academics and investigators.

Three projects won the FACH Virtual Hackathon 2020, by demonstrating data and satellite image applicability for the development of Data Science solutions applied to historical analysis, monitoring in real time, and predictive systems related to climate change in the El Yali Wetland, located in the Region of O´Higgins, and the Olivares River Basin Glacier, located in the Metropolitan Region.

The FACH Virtual Hackathon 2020 was organized by the Chilean Air Force Aerial Survey Facility (SAF or Servicio Aerofotogramétrico in Spanish), Data Observatory and the Faculty of Engineering and Sciences of Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez (UAI), in alliance with the Ministry of Science, the Ministry of Economy, Amazon Web Services (AWS), the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Chile, which is the local office of the Australian research agency, and Fundación País Digital. It included the participation of 47 teams that offered solutions to climate-related problems such as forest fires in outer metropolitan areas, glacier retreating and wetland degradation, and the participants included citizens, undergraduate and graduate students, academics and researchers.

The three winners received prizes by category consisting of US$ 5,000, US$ 2,600 and US$ 1,000, equivalent in AWS credits, and their proposals were named after Chilean volcanoes: Tatajachura, Chaxas, and Colachi. First place was won by the team made up of Felipe Bueso, Mario Vergara and Álvaro Gómez, whom are representatives and co-founders of B&G Advanced Analytics; second place was won by José Ossa, Carlos Calvo, Felipe Arróspide and Fernando Neira from the Centro de Información de Recursos Naturales (CIREN or the Centre for Natural Resources Information in English); and third place went to Álvaro Salazar from Universidad de La Serena.

The teams worked with data provided by SAF and Open Data Cube of CSIRO/Data Observatory, and the selection criteria for the finalists consisted of: solution, use of data, design and presentation. Tatajachura developed indicators for analysing preventive tasks in the El Yali Wetland; Chaxas measured incidental factors in glacier retreating in the Olivares River Canyon; and Colachi carried out a field study of anomalies that helps to understand alteration processes in the El Yali Wetland.

Tatajachura developed a predictive model and a model for real time monitoring with over 20 indicators that are inherent to the El Yali Wetland, using satellite data that date back to the year 2013 and highlighting the natural benefits provided by the wetland that include hydric resource collection, support to flora and fauna, biological control of plagues and illnesses, as well as the reduction of climate change effects and the containment of nutrients and pollutants. Chaxas established a relation between the measurement of precipitation in the El Maipo Basin, temperature rises, and the effects of droughts on glacier retreating, by using Landsat 8 satellite data recorded between the years 2013 and 2020. Colachi placed its bet on studying the anomalies found during the recording of superficial temperatures at the El Yali Wetland, located in the O’Higgins Region, concluding that energy is absorbed rather than being reflected and it therefore affects the diversity of flora and fauna as well as the degradation of the wetland because of its strong incidence on the changes that occur in the atmosphere and vegetation, and providing a comparative study to measure the period between years 2014 and 2020 in contrast to the summer of 2020 to prove that the native forest has a cooling effect and reduces the impact of climate change on the environment.

Demián Arancibia, Director of Equipo Futuro at the Ministry of Science, highlighted: “This Hackathon demonstrates that the information belonging to the Chilean State is very valuable for dealing with challenges related to climate change, and it also shows us very clearly how well-executed accessibility to information makes it possible for the community to get down to work at facing these problems and thus move forward in the country´s development. We are very happy because today we have ascertained that this vision works: the talent, the data, the public and private sectors, the academia, all have a meeting point to contribute to the common good, and not only in our country but also at a global level. The contributions made by these groups are the first step towards further developments that inspire us to yield greater profit from the data obtained in our country´s natural laboratories.”

According to Chilean Air Force Deputy Director for Space Affairs, Colonel (A) Luis Felipe Sáez, the FACH Hackathon experience validates the role performed by Defence in the development of the country and in the delivery of information that is fundamental for decision making in other fields of action. “Through SAF and the Group of Spatial Operations (GOE), FACH faced this challenge to collaborate by taking a long term glance to consider how development relies on teamwork, the creation of technologies and the availability of quality information in order to establish mechanisms that can make it possible for us to dream of a future and build it from the present.”

For Rodrigo Carrasco, Chief Engineering Officer at Data Observatory, academic at Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, and Chief Coordinator of the FACH Hackathon 2020, added: “This contest was an excellent sample of what the democratization of data accessibility can accomplish. Through this collaboration between SAF, Data Observatory and the Faculty of Engineering and Sciences at UAI, we were able to make data of an excellent quality available to the participants, whom made good use of their inventiveness and ideas in creating excellent solutions that support decision making in these environments, and therefore reduce the negative effects of climate change. We believe that initiatives like these will help us solve issues in the future when ideas and knowledge from different sectors of society will be needed in order to obtain solutions that are innovative and can support the country´s progress.

When information is placed at the service of the scientific, educational and civic communities, we are creating value and contributing to create solutions that benefit people and the planet. We are really happy with the winning innovations in this contest because we believe that they will help us to find ways to respond to the challenges that are presented by climate change in Chile and in the whole world. The role performed by AWS at Data Observatory makes it possible for us to demonstrate the long term commitment we have with Chile”, stated Marek Bute, Senior Strategic Engagements Business Development Manager at AWS.

Jonathan Hodge, Director of the Program for the Integration of Data Science at CSIRO Chile commented on how CSIRO has internally backed up this Hackathon, since “CSIRO left its ‘datacube’ platform open to all of the participants and gave them access to the more-than-12 TB of information that is received from multiple satellite providers. This system is still being developed in Chile, but CSIRO and other collaborators worldwide use this system that offers flexible and scalable access to large amounts of satellite information.”

“Science and technology form a key component in the conservation of the environment by creating new technologies that are environmentally friendly for the different ecosystems of our planet. Nowadays, we have three highly enriching projects that will impact communities, localities and the environment in a very positive way, and will represent a step forward in our commitment, as Chileans, to caring for the place where we live”, said Pelayo Covarrubias, President of Fundación País Digital and partner of the FACH Hackathon 2020.

The jury was integrated by: Viviana Barrientos, Geographer in charge of Extension at SAF; Álvaro Paredes, Satellite Project Engineer at Data Observatory (DO); and two experts in Investigation and Development, Sandra García, Director at Rayén Salud as well as Independent Director at DO, and Pía Larrondo, Manager of I+D at the Faculty of Sciences and Engineering of Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez. The competition included the noteworthy collaboration of General Cristián Puebla from FACH, currently Chair Director at Academia Nacional de Estudios Públicos y Estratégicos (ANEPE or the National Academy of Public and Strategic Studies in English); and SAF, currently directed by Colonel Carlos Tabilo, an organization that worked on capturing, compiling and processing the aerial and satellite images that supplied new data to the challenge.

“I am pleasantly impressed by the quality of the data that was readily available to the teams and by the great capacity they demonstrated in their utilization. This demonstrates that in Chile we have capabilities that can bring forth real changes in matters that are as transcendental as climate change. Making open data available for their use and study on behalf of scientists, entrepreneurs and the ecosystem can make a big difference for our country,” stated juror Sandra Gatica, Alternate Director at DO.

The capabilities that are brought forth by geospatial and computer technologies make it possible to design and generate models and information that contribute to a relevant decision making process in the public, private, academic and civil society sectors. Likewise, the use of open data platforms makes it possible to access infrastructure for the simple use and application of data in service of knowledge and creativity, transforming Data Science into an unlimited innovation ecosystem.

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