Cisco Canada Blog

Another Successful Mining Hackathon

June 7, 2017

Although hackathons have been around for almost 2 decades, the concept is relatively new to mining.  Recently, I had the opportunity to judge my 3rd  Hackathon hosted by the Canadian Mining Innovation Council earlier this month at the Cisco TorontoInnovation Centre.

I consider myself a hackathon junkie now and enthusiastically look for opportunities to attend and judge these events in the energy sector.  The reason? To see the creativity, energy and brilliance that comes from the youth who participate.  Now the real innovation will come when the mining industry actually embraces, attracts and leverages the creativity, knowledge and digital talent that this generation has.

Teams getting their tasks assigned at Hackmining

In all, 15 teams competed and the goal was to address two challenges:

  1. Transporting ore and waste from difficult-to-access areas
  2. Reducing the volume of mine tailings

Not exactly simple problems, but big opportunities for companies that solve them.  Teams had 54 hours to envision, plan, and design solutions.  Then only 5 minutes to convince  the judges from Agnico Eagle, Barrick Gold, Halyard, Hatch and myself of the opportunities that their developed solutions brings.  By the way, being a Judge was not an easy task for the panel as many teams did not have deep mining knowledge.

I had the pleasure to judge Hackmining in Toronto (middle)

Solutions ranged widely from RFID tracking to the use of secure nuclear waste to evaporate tailings ponds.  What was consistent among teams is new ideas to old problems. Whether ultimately feasible or not, the real win for mining is getting new talent and ideas into the industry.  What the industry can learn from these events is that hackathons are as much a culture as a competition, and teams compete regularly to test their skills and explore different industries. It’s not a solely a matter of finding the next new application but an opportunity for companies and industry to create a non-biased brainstorming event that explores the art of the possible,  while leveraging digital expertise to real industry problems.

In a recent Harvard Business Review Article “Hackathons are no longer just for coders. Companies far outside the tech world are using these intense brainstorming and development sessions to stir up new ideas on everything from culture change to supply chain management”.

The winners of Hackmining – congratulations!

Organization’s can spend tens of thousands of dollars internally and with consulting organizations looking for new innovation to old problems, or a few thousand dollars in a hackathon, and engage young bright-minded youth who represent the future of digital transformation.  The Canadian Mining Innovation Council clearly sees the potential of this medium, and opportunity is real and the risk is minimal.  Not every hackathon will deliver a solution that gets funded or developed, but many have.  The real tangible benefit for companies and participants is the medium allows industry to be exposed to the new generation entering the market, and participants to be exposed to the mining industry and see how their digital talents can greatly impact the industry.  The mining industry is in good hands if it embraces the new generation and what they can bring to evolving the industry.

Check out more pictures from Hackmining – click here!

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