Tech Sri Lanka’s “Team Codon” Makes It to the Finals of NASA’s Space...

Sri Lanka’s “Team Codon” Makes It to the Finals of NASA’s Space Apps Challenge

2017 Jun 6

A Bit About The NASA Space Apps Challenge

The NASA International Space Apps Challenge has been a global competition occurring every year since 2012.  It is an international hackathon that takes place over 48 hours in cities around the world. By enrolling in the challenge, you can share ideas and engage with open data to address real-world problems, on Earth and in space. Competitors can either opt to work alone or in teams to solve challenges that could help change the world.

Space Apps is a recurring event that brings citizens from all over the world together, regardless of their background or levels of skill. Although the name of the competition suggests that it mainly revolves around apps, it isn’t just confined to that. Participants tackle challenges using robotics, data visualization, hardware, design and many other specialties. It is a platform that allows the sharing of problem solving skills and talents with the world. 

Team Codon: Where The Genes Flow

Sri Lanka’s very own Team Codon found themselves nominated under the ‘Galactic Impact’ category, which is solution with the most potential to improve life on Earth or in the universe.

This solution was “Where The Genes Flow”. Here, the challenge was to map and compare population genetics of a species with landscape features, climate conditions, and human activities in a region to identify potential barriers or facilitators to gene migration and local adaptation.

Sounds very complex, doesn’t it? However, Nadun De Silva, Vindula Jayawardana, Chamod Weerasinghe, Aravinda Ruwanpathirana, Janaka Chathuranga and Tharindu Kumarage were able to come up with a mind blowing solution with GeneX.

Image Courtesy of

GeneX is an analyzer and visualiser on gene flow and local adaptation patterns. According to Codon, their team has identified several general factors which govern the gene flow of any given species. These factors include climate change, migration patterns, environment and landscape and human behavior such as man-made artificial barriers, deforestation as well as warzones.

With the development of this solution, Team Codon presents a new approach to evaluating the gene flow based on the migration patterns of any given species. By using migration pattern data globally available via NASA portals and other resources, their method may potentially open novel research on how to utilize machine learning so as to evaluate and estimate gene flow. You read more on their extensive and intriguing research here.

How Can GeneX Change The Future?

According to Team Codon, this method can be used as a direct and more accurate way of measuring the gene flow of any given species. Further, it directly shows the correlation between migration patterns and gene flow. In addition to this, methods of clustering can be extensively improved, and gene flow can be used to predict population growth and risks.

Image Courtesy of Vindula Jayawardana

Team Codon is the first Sri Lankan team and the third South Asian team to reach the World Finals. Nadun, Vindula, Chamod, Aravinda, Janaka and Tharindu are Computer Science & Engineering students from the University of Moratuwa.

We wish Team Codon the best of luck and we hope they know that they have made Sri Lanka proud!