Despite the heavy rains, or maybe driven in by the rain, almost 50 innovators participated on teams in the first NC IoT Hackathon this past weekend on the NCSU Centennial Campus in the Larry K. Monteith Engineering Research Center – they were all warm, dry, well fed and inspired.
What really stood out about this first hackathon was the diversity of projects AND the diversity of the participants. Projects ranged from property asset monitoring, to storm water monitoring, to pill taking compliance, to providing light and electricity in India, to assisting the aging and special needs caregivers, to helping people sleep better, and even helping bar owners track how much is flowing through their kegs. The participants ranged from high school age, to college, to professionals, to retired senior citizens (and a couple elementary and middle school kids came by to learn and get their hands on the hacking as well – with their parents supervising of course).
In the beginning, there was nervousness and optimism. The initial opening ceremony of the event gave all participants a chance to pitch their ideas in front of everyone. About 15 pitches were made (each 90 seconds) and then everyone had a chance to mingle during dinner to talk with each of the presenters about their ideas, offering to join teams, create new teams, give feedback and to settle into a role in a team. There were a couple teams of 1 person each who were not daunted by working on their ideas on their own.
After eating, mingling, and finding teams, the teams talked with the representatives of Device Solutions (Chris Lamb, CTO) and James Branigan (Founder, Platform Architect) to share their ideas in more detail and to get their initial equipment and instructions so that they could work on until midnight – they spend their time getting their teams organized, planning their prototypes, and their talking about getting their venture pitches ready for judging on Sunday.
Saturday was the longest day – from 9am to 11:59pm – and most teams made use of the whole day. Teams worked together, talked with other members of other teams, got their initial prototypes up and running, connected their sensors, talked with mentors, and attended parallel sessions on Hardware, Software/Connectivity, and Business Venture Pitching.
By Saturday afternoon most all of the teams had gotten into their grooves, they had worked out inter-team dynamics and were highly focused on white-boarding their presentations, fleshing out their scenarios, reviewing their ideas with the various mentors that were there from Wireless Research Center, ASSIST, Smashing Boxes, Ground Work Labs, Device Solutions, Bright Wolf, and the many others who dropped by to check things out and offer up their advice.
As Saturday drew to a close, one team accomplished getting pulse oximetry from blood vessels in the mouth – quite a break through! – and some of the mentors stayed behind until about 2:30am to assist them in stabilizing their design in preparation for presentations on Sunday. Sunday opened up at 9am with bagels, pastries, cream cheese, and coffee from Panera. (Note: Saturday morning was biscuits and donuts from Rise in Morrisville). Sunday, the teams had until 1:30pm to finalize their presentations, their prototypes, and practice their venture pitches.
Just before lunch on Sunday, the judges, mentors, family members, parents, and other community members began to arrive for lunch (provided by Moe’s Southwest), mingle, and give last minute advice and assistance to the teams. Officially at 1:30pm on Sunday all software code development was called to a stop and all groups were given their spots in the presentation line-ups. The venture presentations began at 2:30pm sharp and were allowed up to 8 minutes to present and 2 minutes for Q&A (Matthew of Reveal was the official time keeper). Ten (10) teams presented their projects to the judges.
After the presentations were delivered and questions answered to the satisfaction of the five judges, the judges found a quite place to review the presentations, the potential of each venture, the progress each team made during the Hackathon, and emerged with the names of the winner and honorable mentions. Larry Steffan presented the results of the judging. Beer-O-Meter was named the winner and awarded $150 gift certificate to The Pit (Downtown Raleigh BBQ), admittance to the GroundWork Labs session(s) and opportunities to join in on a trip to Las Vegas in January to exhibit in a shared booth at CES. The honorable mentions were awarded to WheezePatch (Asthma Detector), Dream Catchers (Elderly and Special Needs Assistance Device), Orora (Power and Light for India), and Numo (Sleep Apnea Detector).
In total, more than 100 people participated in the first Hackathon for IoT in NC. 10 teams presented, 1 team was named the overall winner, and 4 teams were awarded honorable mentions. The winner and honorable mention teams are all included in the GroundWork Labs program, assistance from Smashing Boxes, ongoing support from Device Solutions and Brightwolf, and other resources to help evolve their ideas and the venture presentations for presentations at the Data4Decisions Conference, March 22-24, 2016 (http://data4decisionsevent.com). All of the participants have been offered followup discussions with GroundWork Labs.
A special mention goes out to the four initial instigators of the Hackathon. Chris Lamb of Device Solutions, James Branigan of Bright Wolf, Larry Steffan of Wireless Research Center, and Tom Snyder of ASSIST. Thank you! We can only imagine what the next event will look like…