NASA Space App Global Winner 2017

Moses Ong
Moses Ong
May 4, 2017 · 9 min read

This article documents our journey of how we apply a human-centric approach to tackling NASA’s Global Space Hackathon challenge. This event is held in 187 locations, 69 countries and 25,140 participants participated in the challenge. We’re proud to have represent Singapore and emerged as the Global Winner in the category Galactic Impact which is the solution with the most potential to improve life on earth and or in the Universe. NASA Space App project link

“Design thinking is a human-centric approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” — Tim Brown

The Hackathon’s Challenge Statement

To calculate and visualise the radiation exposure for an actual or hypothetical polar, or a near-polar flight!


Our earth is constantly bombarded by radiation from our universe, including the sun. The earth’s magnetic field deflects much of this radiation, protecting us from harmful effects. However, at the North and South poles, Earth’s magnetic field no longer provides shielding, and instead accelerates radiation into the Earth’s atmosphere. You may have seen the result of electrons colliding with our atmosphere in the form of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and Aurora Australis (Southern Lights)

While people on the ground have atmospheric protection, those at a higher altitude are exposed to greater risk of radiation. This is especially relevant to frequent travelers and those serving in the airline industry.

1st Phase: Discovery & Research

User Interview
We kicked off the project by setting up phone interviews with five participants; four of which were cabin crews from Qatar Airways, and a risk analyst from the airline industry. We want to gather a first-hand insight of what our users understand from radiation exposure. We also had the pleasure of having a veteran senior air stewardess to share her experience too.

Here are some of the interview questions asked:

Skype Martins’ (teammate) aunt who works as a cabin crew for Qatar Airways for over 30 years

Some of the feedbacks gathered were:

“ There is no way you could understand those reports. They are in alien language” — air stewardess

Our second research consists of looking at the challenge in a more technical light. We pulled out everything from visualising flight paths of radiation exposure to in-flight optimisation chart and solar storm warnings. For the most part, we could not ignore our frustration with the confusing graphs and charts! How is the average lay-person ever going to find their answers from the below?

Coordinates, Numbers, Formulas!

We decided to take a step back and look through the perspective of our audience; the frequent travelers. From the data below, the radiation exposure for a flight to the Bahamas was measured 0.2447mSv. So instinctively, our next question is; what are the tangible consequences as a result?

2nd Phase: Synthesis & Ideation

Insights extracted

This is the stage where we consolidate all our research findings, identify patterns, and reap the sweet insights of the top 3 issues our users think it is worth solving.

Below are the fruits, arranged in the order of importance

Customer Persona

A second framework we used to accurately validate our user’s pain points & frustrations would be the Customer Persona.

Introducing Marrisa Musk,
Personas are fictional characters created to represent as a whole, the goals and behaviours of the users we had interviewed. We used this to help put ourselves in the shoes of our main users, and identify the key issues that are worth solving.

Here are Marrisa’s top 3 concerns:

  1. How much of radiation has she accumulated over the years, and how she could keep them at a safe level
  2. Quantify the amount of dosage of sievert for each flight in ways she can understand
  3. Be educated on the risk of radiation exposure in simpler language.

User’s Journey

The last framework we did was to map out the entire journey of how Marrisa Musk goes about understanding what is radiation exposure when it became important to her. This contextual enquiry helps us to understand her thought process, her feelings, and explore potential solutions to solve those frustrations.

3rd Phase: Ideating & Prototyping

With all the insights and design opportunities gathered, we pieced the puzzle together by translating them into sketches & wireframes.


Sketching Low-Fi prototype & wireframing (Our teammates Mark & Harold)

User flow

This is especially useful when it comes to understanding how a user interact with our app, and the decisions they make to complete a task.

User Flow of the Radaway App

Rapid Prototyping

We went through multiple iterations before delivering the final prototype. We quickly started off from a low-fidelity prototype to a high-fidelity prototype with usability testing included.

Our Pitch

I would like to be brutally honest with you about the unforgettable experience of our pitch & the whole award ceremony. We started off not pitching as well as we wanted to. We missed a few important points and the crux of our idea wasn’t well-delivered. I remembered our team just heading back to our seats in despair. There was just this eerie silent that came after, and all of us just slouched back into our seats and sank into a moment of “I wish I could have done it better”. On the other side, there were a few confident teams that had just came back from their pitch. From their faces, you could tell that they were really proud and eager to know the results. It was as if the result was already screaming in their faces and telling them they had won. Harald, in a desperate attempt to find hope, looked over his shoulder and asked Mark how did he think we do. Mark said that he thinks we would come in 4th place. And then silence took over the table again. Btw, Harald is a funny guy.

The drama unfolds when the judge announced the winning team. In a lethargic posture, we felt defeated and could care less about the results. We were all ready to clap for the winning team. When the results were announced, they said it once, and then twice. Immediately Harold turned his head to face us and with a puzzled look he said: “Radaway???”, and then he stood up, and beamed and said: “It’s Radawayyyyyyy!!” It was a very surreal moment for all of us as we ran up to collect our prizes. As we reflect on why they chose us, we found out that what separates us from the rest was our central focus on people.

Chronological Timeline

March 2017 — Team Radaway emerged as the winning team for Singapore’s NASA Space App Challenge.

April 2017 — Winning teams from all participating countries were tasked to refine and improve their working prototype to compete in a global arena. A total of 25,140 people from 69 countries participated in this challenge.

May 2017 — Team Radaway was nominated as one of the Global Nominees under the category of Galactic Impact. There were a total of 5 nominees.

June 2017 — NASA announced Team Radaway as the global winning team for the Global Space App Challenge 2017. Category won: Galactic Impact.

Aug 2017 — We were invited to attend the launch of the TDRS-M satellite on the 18th August 2017. The location of the launch is at NASA Kentucky Space Station at Florida, USA.

We were invited to attend the launch of the TDRS-M satellite on the 18th August 2017. The location of the launch is at NASA Kentucky Space Station at Florida, USA.


The team and I would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the following people and organization who if weren’t for them; we would never have dreamt of what we achieved today.

1.Bidushi Bhattacharya, Ph.D., CEO & Founder, Bhattacharya Space Enterprises Pte Ltd, Organiser of the 2017 NASA Space App challenge in Singapore.
Thank you for pulling together this event and providing incredible mentorship and advice in helping us understand the science and technology challenges of space. And not to forget your efforts in inviting Commander Jeff Williams, retired NASA astronaut who has spent the longest time on space to give a phenomenal speech on his space travels in Singapore. A million thanks aren’t enough.

2. Adam Lyle, Executive Chairman, Padang & Co

Truly adept and professional at coordinating the entire event from the start- to finish. We had a great privilege of having Adam join us alongside while we met up with the other winning teams at NASA’s launchpad in Florida. He spoke with so much confidence and charisma that make us strong ambassadors of Singapore. Thank you for always watching out for us! We had tonnes of fun, and we can’t wait to catch up with you again!


We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to the team at SGINNOVATE who have stood by us and support us in our efforts. Our trip wouldn’t have been made possible if weren’t for their unquestionable contribution in helping us to raise funds.

Our Retrospective:

It is truly a once in a lifetime experience to be given the rare privilege to come up close to the launch of their TDRS-M satellite. The trip to NASA has open our eyes and ears to the city that lives within the perimeters of NASA Space Exploration Ground. We were immersed in the culture of innovation and inspired by the very employees who drive the mission of NASA forward.

If there’s one thing I’ve taken back from my trip, it would be that it has taught me that it didn’t mattered to the space explorer how dangerous a mission is, for they live in the name of exploration and that is what makes us as humans. We’re made to explore.

Our detailed itinerary also covers meeting the 5 Global Space App winners in their respective category, and the team from NASA who would be hosting us. Here are some of the photos we’ve taken during our trip :”)

Intro Video

Intro video made by Martin Sawtell (Our teammate)

“There’s this gap between the vision and the customer, to make the two fit, you have to talk to people” — Joe Gebbia

Movie Interstellar

A father and his relationship with his daughter, Murphy - Movie Interstellar

For those of you who have watched the heart-moving sci-fiction movie Interstellar, the scene where the father makes a desperate attempt to make connection with his daughter through the watch he gave her, speaks to the heart of experience designing. At its core, all the methodologies constantly point towards searching for the root of a problem that makes problem-solving so meaningful. Today, we have more than 102,465 flights in a day. I just want you to imagine, for a second, how many lives can we potentially uplift.

Looking back…

I’m ecstatic & humbled to have met great people like Martin Sawmill, Harald Battran, Roger lles and Mark at the NASA Hackathon. Although we’ve only worked for close to two weeks altogether, we had a lot of fun, and I’m sure we’ll all walk home with many great lessons learned, & more importantly, a great sense of fulfillment.


From the left, Martin Sawmill, Harald Battran, Moses Ong, and Mark Ong

In case you didn’t already know, Radaway stands for “Radiation Awayyyyy!!” :P

Moses Ong

Written by

Moses Ong

I currently design for Publicis Sapient. Portfolio link:

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