For the second time in two years, a John Glenn Middle School seventh grader is part of a team of four students that has won a global championship in the 2022 NASA Space Apps Challenge – a worldwide art and science competition.
Hanna Suzuki said her group “studied space weather and its impacts on Earth, and built a digital message board that displays space weather and produces the ‘music of solar wind.’”
The others, in grades five to seven, were from Belmont, Winchester, and Tokyo.
Their project, which they called “Earth, Wind, and Flare,” was first in the art and technology category and one of 10 winning entries, selected from 5,327 teams comprising 31,561 participants from 162 countries. Winners were chosen by representatives from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and 11 other nations’ space agencies.
The NASA Space Apps Challenge is described as “an innovation incubation and civic engagement program” in which the agency invites participants to develop innovative solutions to some 30 different challenges.
The challenge presented by the sponsor was to present information about solar effects – also called space weather – through “an interactive tool to represent this data in a new and inviting way that improves public knowledge and understanding of space weather.”
Hanna explained in an email that “although space weather has significant impacts on our life, most people don’t know about it. In fact, many of our team members didn’t. Most of our parents, grandparents, and friends didn’t either.”
She and the others built a networked device that publicizes space weather and its impacts on Earth “in an interactive and artistic way.” The key element, she said, was “an LED matrix board to show space weather, such as solar wind speed and geomagnetic disturbance, as well as Earth weather, with visual and acoustic effects, such as producing the ‘music of solar wind’ by mapping geomagnetic disturbance data to musical elements.”
“It is designed to help panel viewers know and interpret space weather as they do for Earth weather,” she continued. “It can also help them get better informed and better prepared.”
A prize-winning pianist, Hanna said, “I used my music theory knowledge to produce the music of solar wind. I had, and still do have, a hard time in music theory courses. But it came in handy. I was so surprised to see that music theory can contribute to things that aren’t for music, create something new and hopefully inspire others.
“Our project could inspire many others in the same generation who are interested in technology/STEM, arts, or both,” she said. “We also hope this news can tell many people in any generation that the sun is getting very active these days and geomagnetic storms will happen, more or less, in a year or two.”
The project website can be accessed at https://github.com/HSSBoston/earth-wind-and-flare.
Hanna noted that she has a foundation of scientific projects through her studies in the weekly Japanese Language School of Greater Boston, where she has been involved in a summer science fair since kindergarten. She has explored a range of topics in these endeavors, ranging from the 12 tones in an octave to the spread of infectious diseases.
A member of the chorus at JGMS, Hanna said she also accompanies the middle school singers on the piano, which she began playing at age four and now studies at the New England Conservatory of Music Preparatory School.
“I have been invited to Carnegie Hall for my recitals six times,” she said.
Hanna also is a serious year-round tennis player, and “I run a ‘business’ that produces fresh pasta – my customers are my parents, neighbors and friends’ families.” She added, “I love to read and hang out with my friends. I love baking cookies, too!”
To learn more about the project, check this video with Hanna at https://youtu.be/OQ8wODVpMxo.