Our Perth office recently released an Android and an iOS app called Fireballs In The Sky to help encourage community involvement with the Desert Fireball Network. In this Q&A with Developer Nathan Jones, learn how the Perth team collaborated with Curtin University to deliver an engaging and useful app to track and build fireballs.
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Q: So, what do you do when you are approached to work on a project called "Fireballs In The Sky?”
A: Clearly, you ask where to sign.
Q: Who is it for?
A: The project is part of a science outreach program from Curtin University, supporting the research of the Desert Fireball Network (DFN). The DFN is a series of cameras being spread out through Australia, to track fireballs and help determine their origin.
Q: All right, so what did we build?
A: It is an app designed to get people interested in the project and science in general. The app had to be, in the words of Professor Phil Bland, “cute.” The team at Curtin are now able to keep citizen scientists up-to-date with the latest events, news and sightings, and can share some of the amazing images taken from the DFN and other sources. The best bit though is that people everywhere are able to contribute their own sightings and even better than that, build their own fireballs.
Q: Did you just say build their own fireballs?
A: You bet I did. In order to have an engaging experience, the team picked up a few stories clearly not in the MVP pile to enable the users to describe their sighting with an animated fireball in front of the stars around at the time of the sighting.
Q: Whoa, whoa, whoa!? Fireballs are one thing, did you just say stars?
A: Of course! The team hand rolled some star maps, so you can align your sighting with the stars in the actual sky, and when you look at a sighting retrospectively, you can see the sky as the fireball passed originally. Think Google Sky Maps, but prettier. That should help.
Q: Tell me about the greasy bits!
A: The team initially spiked out using Calatrava, but the more we looked the less shared logic we had. Given the level of interaction needed with the sensors and wanting to make it "cute" on as many devices as possible, we discounted pure web. The answer? Two native apps.