You Could Win $15,000 in NASA’s Coding Challenge

Speed up this supercomputer, and NASA will fill up your bank account.

5. 9. 17 by Karla Lant
Image by Getty

NASA Announces Bounties

NASA needs help making its FUN3D software better, and it’s asking the world for help. The space agency just announced several bounties for anyone in the U.S. who can optimize the code for the NASA Pleiades supercomputer. The two top prizes of $15,000 and $10,000 will go to the coders with the best optimizations, and a third bounty will go to more general suggestions for optimization.

Technically, anyone in the world could optimize it, but only U.S. citizens are eligible for the bounties. The other catch is that the core of FUN3D is written in Fortran, and while certain scientists and a few programmers here and there like this infamous 1950s holdover, they are in the minority in the coding community.

This software simulates fluid dynamics and is used in the development and optimization of engines and vehicles. NASA uses FUN3D internally, but it’s also used at Lockheed, Boeing, and other companies in the high-tech vehicle business. This project began in the 1980s, and at this point, it needs a refresh so it can run faster and more efficiently — hence the bounties.

What is NASA looking for, exactly? Ideally, 10X to 1000X faster speeds — a big goal, considering that whoever wins will be better at Fortran and math than actual rocket scientists at NASA. Still, the bounties also come with the totally cool bonus of bragging rights; who wouldn’t want to say that they were the person to optimize the code that NASA uses to build better spacecraft?


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