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February 18, 2020 NASA’s Work With Topcoder: Bloomberg Radio Spotlight

Recently, NASA’s Steve Rader sat down with Carol Massar on Bloomberg Business Week to discuss NASA’s work with Topcoder. He offered a compelling list of reasons NASA has been accessing top-level, on-demand digital talent through Topcoder. Rader is Deputy Manager of NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI), which is working to infuse challenge and on-demand talent innovation approaches at NASA and across the federal government. He began studying talent communities in 2011 and joined CoECI as the deputy director in 2013. 

In the brief interview, Rader delved into the benefits that on-demand talent provides for NASA, and shared an example of a challenge that produced a very effective solution. This look at NASA’s work with Topcoder is a great example of how our platform helps support large enterprises. Listen to the full interview below or read on for highlights!

Why On-Demand Talent?

According to Rader, it is difficult to find quality software talent to address the complex issues NASA needs to solve. On-demand talent allows them access to cutting-edge skills and a worldwide talent pool. NASA uses Topcoder challenges to augment its internal work.

Why Topcoder?

While NASA works with several different digital talent platforms, Rader highlighted their partnership with Topcoder specifically. Topcoder’s 1.5 million community members all have what he describes as a passion for software and data science. NASA appreciates being able to infuse that passion into their projects through Topcoder challenges.

Talent Diversity is Key to Success

One interviewer pointed out that challenge winners aren’t always experts in the specific field of the challenge. For example, a problem might revolve around chemistry, but the software expert who delivers the best solution may not be a chemist. Rader agreed that diversity is a key component in solving the kind of problems facing NASA. There’s a wealth of technology being developed in adjacent industries that can apply to a NASA challenge, and talent communities like Topcoder are a great way to find people who can translate that technology into relevant solutions.

Asteroid Data Hunter Challenge Illustrates NASA’s work with topcoder

Rader elaborated on one particular challenge that NASA ran with Topcoder, the Asteroid Data Hunter challenge. NASA wanted to develop better tools for early detection and tracking of asteroids that could potentially impact the Earth. The Topcoder community found an algorithm that was 15 percent better than what NASA had been using. They also delivered it in the form of a standalone app that amateurs could use to help NASA detect asteroids. This challenge highlights the dramatic ability of Topcoder’s talent community to improve on existing solutions.

Global Collaboration

Rader expanded on how on-demand talent allows NASA to tap into a pool of software experts around the world. He explained that while NASA wants to be the world leader in space exploration, it also wants to be an agency that brings people and powers together to find the best solutions.

NASA and many other clients are leveraging the passion and expertise of the Topcoder community to find innovative solutions across a wide variety of industries. Learn more about NASA’s Topcoder challenges at Topcoder.com.


Clinton Bonner

VP, Marketing


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