Earlier this month, I had the  opportunity to help judge BuiltWorlds 3rd Annual Hackathon, a weekend-long competition where all-star developers, makers and built industry experts gathered to hack solutions to critical built world problems. It was an inspiring experience as the event brought together a diverse group of participants (students, software developers, real estate professionals, contractors and architects) to focus on how design and technology can improve our cities and global built environment.

Given BuiltWorlds growing brand, the event was well attended by participants all interested in connecting, finding shared synergies and creating meaningful solutions. The Hackathon format required participants to form teams of 3-6 individuals and then choose a problem to solve. Once they had started, they had 30 hours to churn out a prototype solution and then present their ideas to the judges. The teams were competing for monetary prizes across three core areas:

  • Software: Which team can create the best software solution to a built industry problem
  • Makerthon: This category focused on teams of developers interested in the Intenet of Things and creating solutions that integrate sensor-based hardware with software
  • Construction Profitability: Teams competed to run the most profitable “built business” and hone their skills on the business side of construction, including optimizing P&Ls, operations and processes.

The event kicked off at mHub on Friday evening when participants chose their respective track and then got to work forming teams and creating solutions. I was fortunate to judge the software category of the competition and thrilled to learn CannonDesign took 2nd and 3rd place in the maker challenge. Here are some of the other winning ideas:

  • The winning software team created an app that leverages Microsoft’s HoloLens technology to scan interior spaces and add objects with voice technology, with data linking back using Flux software.
  • The Makerthon winner created a product that can sense when a porta-potty unit is full an in need of emptying and maintenance, with the goal of reducing O&M costs and improving customer satisfaction.

Beyond judging the event and being surrounded by these novel ideas, engaging with the participants proved equally valuable. Overall, they enjoyed how the event pushed them to learn new skills, trust their teammates and experiment with new skills rapidly. Interestingly, some individuals changed teams midstream as ideas developed, and it was exciting to see this innovation and resilience in action.

Ultimately, creativity, practicality, strong presentation skills and stepping outside one’s comfort zone prevailed. This helped relevant new ideas, catalysts for R+D investment and potential funding surface during the event – which really was the whole goal. Kudos to BuiltWorlds for pulling together such a strong event – I’m excited for what continues to develop from this experience and looking forward to  the 2018 Hackathon!