In November 2021, I participated in the second CASSINI hackathon in Berlin. The main theme of the design competition was using space observation technology to bring positive societal change to the Arctic region. I formed a team with expertise in machine learning, user experience design, business, and full-stack development. We decided to design for the 'Life on Land' challenge, which aimed to mitigate the effects of climate change for people living in the Arctic region.
We developed Polar Bearings, an arctic navigation platform that uses machine learning and Copernicus satellite data to enable polar communities to travel over ice more safely. We paid special attention to involving the indigenous populace in the design process and respecting their cultural values and local knowledge. Our effort won us first place in Germany and, after participating in the Europe-wide finals, we were awarded second place overall. As a result of our success, we were granted a half-year long mentoring program, which we used to further develop our concept.
In the mentoring program, we partnered with knowledgeable industry experts to construct our startup. We were fortunate to learn from them in both a technology and a business track, gaining valuable expertise and insights in the process. Despite our best efforts and the tangible progress made, our startup had to be discontinued due to other priorities and a lack of the necessary funding. However, the findings we made during the project have been published in an open source format, so that others can benefit from our efforts.
The Polar Bearings project has been invaluable for my growth as a designer. I gained invaluable knowledge on how to create a startup, connect with local users in the Arctic, devise business strategies, and build an application using Copernicus satellite data. Leading a team of professionals on a engaging topic for a just cause has made me excited about the role designers can play in addressing complex issues.