The AEC industry is in the midst of a labor shortage. It’s a well-documented fact. New blood simply isn’t moving into the built world fast enough to accommodate the sheer volume of jobs and projects. We need to attract younger talent to the industry who can bring a fresh perspective to some of the problems and issues builders are facing, today.
In that spirit, BuiltWorlds hosted its fourth annual Hackathon this weekend at Salt Flats’ West Loop innovation house. The event saw 34 hackers and coders competing to create the best solution to some of the built world’s problems.
The event kicked off Friday night, where participants heard from both industry professionals and fellow hackers who described potential problems teams could tackle over the course of the weekend.
Eveart Foster, a technical services engineer at Pepper Construction, laid out the difficulties in effectively installing embeds--plates put into concrete that can hold structures such as windows or curbs--and his wish to see a mobile, augmented reality solution that displays an embed’s location according to a project’s BIM model and geolocation.
“It’s very easy to either forget an embed or put it in the wrong location,” he said. “The repercussion is losing thousands of dollars a day or millions of dollars throughout a project’s lifespan.”
Friday night, the participants formed themselves into eight teams: Vue Inspector, BIMChain, Mountain Movers, Better Sort It Out, Da Callbacks, Lone Wolf, PoliThinkers, and Batman & the Holofriends.
Teams began the weekend working through one of the problems presented and trying to conjure a solution. Scattered around the Salt Flats space during a cold, Chicago weekend, they planned, collaborated, coded, and programmed in the hopes of claiming the $10,000 grand prize.
The clock ran out at 2 p.m. Sunday when a group of industry professionals convened to hear each team make a short presentation showing off the new solution they had cooked up over the weekend.
The judge represented a wide collection of experts from across the built industry:
- Steven Beck, Quality Assurance Project Manager, Charles Hall Construction
- David Borlo, CEO, Salt Flats
- Kirk Chamberlain, Vice President, HUB International
- Hilda Espinal, CTO, CannonDesign
- Joel Friedman, CTO/Co-Founder, Aclaimant
- Erin Grossi, Managing Director of Digital Innovation, Accenture
- Tauhira Hoossainy, Construction Technology manager, Milwaukee Tool
- Natalie Spare, Data Scientist, FMI Corp.
- Burcin Kaplanoglu, Executive Director, Innovation Officer, Oracle, Construction and Engineering Global Business Unit
Here are the solutions the teams presented:
- Batman & The Holofriends - VR structural view layering application
- Lone Wolf - project submittal management and coordination program
- Vue Inspector - mobile building inspection application
- Da Callbacks - construction storage location service
- Better Sort It Out - refuse can that separates recycling from trash using crowdsourcing
- Mountain Movers - building ordinance violation application
- Polithinkers - connected wearable devices and personnel tracker
- BIMChain - blockchain application directed at BIM
Despite this being an event geared toward the built industry, many of the participants had limited experience in the field.
“I really appreciated the dynamic and agility of a lot of teams, and I admired that a lot of the folks here didn’t have construction experience and went out on a limb,” said Hoossainy.
The judge graded each team’s submissions based on the creativity and inventiveness of the solution, the product’s market fit, the quality of the presentation, and the amount of growth the teams demonstrated in coming up their proposals. During the deliberations, the nine judges were split between two particular teams, and deliberations were spirited.
“There was a real push for something that is needed in the industry, and that’s where we landed,” said Beck.
In the end, the judges awarded Vue Inspector runner-up before crowning Polithinkers the winner of the BuiltWorlds 2018 Hackathon.
“What set that team aside was their presentation,” said Beck. “It was much more thorough than some of the other teams. They looked at stakeholders, they read some statistics from OSHA, and they really applied those to their presentation.”
The six-person team was thrilled and surprised by their victory.
“This is great,” said Andrea Ciccardi, one of the elated team members. “A few days ago, we had a lot of work to do and we didn’t know a lot about construction, but now here we are.”
Moving forward, the team plans to keep getting constructive feedback on their product and maybe continue to develop it further. But for now, they are focused on graduating college in December.