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Filipino students to join NASA’s annual global hackathon

Two teams with innovative solutions

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Pressing problems in the world require innovative solutions, like ocean waste and the spread of dengue. These two problems are the focus of two teams from De La Salle University – Manila who just won the NASA International Space Apps Challenge.

The NASA International Space Apps Challenge is a yearly hackathon where teams use NASA’s free and open data to address problems on Earth and in space. This year, two separate teams from La Salle won the challenge. They would also join the global hackathon awards where NASA would select the winners in January.

Project PaWiKAN by Ocean’s 4

The first of the two teams focused on the problem of ocean waste. Ocean waste remains the biggest threat to marine wildlife and to humans with more plastics ending up in the ocean every year. Thus, a team composed of Lasallian engineering students conceived Project PaWiKAN.

Project PaWiKAN uses NASA’s Ocean Surface Current Analysis Real-time (OSCAR) data to determine ocean waste patch locations. Then, it deploys dynamically reconfigurable boats capable of trapping and returning ocean waste back to land. The boats have different sensors for communication, and controlled through deployment stations.

The team behind the project, Ocean’s 4, also joined the challenge last year. They created a hyper-casual puzzle game utilizing images from the Hubble Space Telescope and intuitive physics concepts.

AEDES Project

The other winner for the challenge takes its name from the Aedes variety of mosquito, which is responsible for spreading dengue and malaria worldwide. In the Philippines, dengue is responsible for the deaths of many children every year.

A group of Lasallian students developed a forecast model of dengue cases using climate and digital data. This model can also pinpoint possible hot spots from satellite data. Along with other data from NASA and government agencies, potential dengue hot spots and mosquito breeding grounds is shown in a web interface accessible to everyone. This is handy for public health practitioners who can use the data to identify dengue outbreaks and plan according to it.

Global hackathon

Both winners will join teams around the world. NASA will evaluate and select top 30 projects as global finalists in December. They will announc the top six winners in January 2020. Winners will get a chance to visit NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Florida in 2020.

This is not the first time that a Filipino team won the NASA challenge. Last 2018, team iNON developed an application that communicate scientific data to fishermen even without internet. Their app — aptly named the ISDApp — made their team the first Filipino global winner for the challenge.

Participants of the 2019 NASA International Space Apps Challenge

This year’s Space Apps 2019 included over 29,000 participants at more than 230 events in 80 countries. The Philippine leg of the NASA International Space Apps Challenge happened last October 18-20 in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Animo Labs, PLDT, American Corner Manila, and the US government.

SEE ALSO: 17-year-old Filipino student creates a working life-size BB-8 from household materials

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Xiaomi’s foldable phone spotted in the wild

Is this a prototype?

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Everyone’s getting into foldable smartphones these days. After Samsung’s semi-successful foray into the market, other smartphones are rushing to compete with the South Korean giant. One of the earliest experimenters with the form factor, Xiaomi is apparently making strides in the foldable market. In China, Xiaomi’s foldable phone was spotted out in the wild.

In a now-deleted Weibo post (saved by GSMArena), the leaked phone is a whopper of a device. It’s obviously that Xiaomi’s foldable phone since it runs MIUI 12. It looks a lot larger than Samsung’s Galaxy Z lineup. However, it’s large enough to wield in a subway, as the photo portrays.

Whatever this is, it doesn’t look like it’s doing well. The device has a sizable crease running along its midsection. Back in the Galaxy Fold’s early days, Samsung had the same problem before fixing it in later iterations. Since the technology already exists, it’s likely that the spotted Xiaomi device is an early version of whatever the company is actually working on.

Xiaomi has teased an upcoming foldable phone in the past. However, the company has not outed a consumer-friendly foldable phone outside of prototypes. The last time we heard about a potential Xiaomi foldable phone was an old patent revealed last year.

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi patents an upcoming foldable phone

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Samsung will remove the free charger from more phones

Confirmed in an official Q&A

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The cat’s out of the bag. After months of persistent rumors, Samsung has finally ended its free charging adapters and wired earphones starting with the Galaxy S21 series. The controversial decision mimics Apple’s identical ones last October. One question remains, though: Will Samsung remove the free charger in other smartphones? Apparently, yes.

In an official Q&A with Samsung’s officials, the company explained why it chose to remove the free charger from the flagship series. As expected, Samsung is taking the same stance as Apple; that is, everyone already has a bunch of extra chargers lying around anyway. Further, the removal will help in Samsung’s sustainability goals for the future.

However, in explaining their stance, Samsung has revealed its plans for the future. “To support our Galaxy community in this journey, we are transitioning to removal of the charger plug and earphones in our latest line of Galaxy smartphones,” Patrick Chomet, executive vice president of product and innovation, explains.

Besides the Galaxy S21 series, Samsung is likely phasing out the free chargers in future models, too. Thankfully, if you haven’t acclimated to the charger-less future yet, the company is not changing last year’s smartphone packaging; not yet at least, according to online store pages.

If Samsung is truly removing its chargers for future models, we’ll know soon enough. Unlike Apple, who releases smartphones more sporadically, Samsung launches numerous models throughout the year. After starting the year off with a charger-less bang, 2021 is going to be an exciting roller coaster for flagship users.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S21 Series Hands-on

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Trump administration blacklists Xiaomi, 10 other Chinese companies

Xiaomi headed the Huawei way?

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The US has added Xiaomi and 10 other Chinese companies to a blacklist amid national security concerns. The current blacklist is only focused on companies that have military ties and strategic importance in China.

The Defense Department released names of additional “Communist Chinese military companies” operating directly or indirectly in the United States.

Although adding Xiaomi to the list is surprising, the company has largely remained apolitical and focuses on making affordable smartphones. Considered to be China’s answer to Apple, Xiaomi plays a crucial role in progressing China’s telecommunication industry. It surpassed Apple in global smartphone sales in the third quarter, according to IDC.

Xiaomi is China’s second-largest smartphone maker and dominates multiple developing markets like India. Xiaomi’s stock plunged more than 10 percent following the announcement, although it’s considered to be a knee-jerk reaction at the moment.

The ban means that Xiaomi risks getting delisted from global benchmarks like MSCI and American stock exchanges. Just last week, China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom were removed from MSCI indexes. This largely affects their ability to raise capital from the open market in the future due to global compliance complications.

In response, a Xiaomi spokesperson told GadgetMatch, “The Company has been in compliance with the law and operating in compliance with the relevant laws and regulations of jurisdictions where it conducts its businesses. The Company reiterates that it provides products and services for civilian and commercial use. The Company confirms that it is not owned, controlled, or affiliated with the Chinese military, and is not a “Communist Chinese Military Company” defined under the NDAA. The Company will take an appropriate course of actions to protect the interests of the Company and its shareholders.”

Other companies banned

Apart from Xiami, the additional companies blacklisted include Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment, Luokong Technology Corporation, Beijing Zhongguancun Development Investment Center, GOWIN Semiconductor, Grand China Air Company, Global Tone Communication Technology, China National Aviation Holding, and Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC).

Furthermore, the ban is a stepping stone for US authorities to curb Chinese companies’ growth in the international market. The US took a similar step with Huawei and gradually pushed it out of every possible industry. Today, Huawei can’t use Google Mobile Services, cannot ship phones to the US, and has lost significant ground in supplying 5G equipment to telcos worldwide.

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