UCT instrumental in the success of South Africa’s first ‘Unearthed Hackathon’ for the Mining Industry held from 5 – 7th Feb at Workshop 17
The mining industry is facing many economic and technical challenges and innovation is urgently needed to meet them. As Jeannette McGill, event judge and Head of Technology & Innovation at Anglo Platinum commented, the industry strives to remain both relevant and resilient in rapidly changing times.
Unearthed hackathon events are unique 54-hour long activities focused on meeting these needs for the resources sector, by adapting the successful innovation ecosystem model most commonly associated with the Silicon Valley. Software developers, designers, and industry insiders come together to develop prototype solutions to resources sector problems. Unearthed participants have a chance to work on proprietary industry data as well as data from our government partners, even where they have no prior experience in the resources sector. It is this openness that allows for novel, often surprising solutions to surface in a very short time.
Five events were held in Australia in 2015 and the organisers were keen to run an event internationally. Dee Bradshaw was able to catalyse the opportunity for Cape Town to host the first International event with UCT's support and put the organisers in touch with Lianne du Toit of Silicon Cape, just in time to coincide with Africa's largest mining conference, the Mining Indaba.
The first Unearthed Hackathon in Cape Town offered five Challenges, ranging from practical operation challenges like particle segmentation, to more open challenges like 'nano mining'. These were set by De Beers and Anglo American and 17 teams worked all weekend to address them. Six of the teams contained UCT students from different EBE departments. Although these weren’t the winning teams, there was plenty gained by all the participants. For most of the participants, winning was not the end goal – networking with industry professionals, learning more about a fascinating industry and being able to work with fellow people passionate about making change were the real aims, and these certainly were achieved.
In some cases the projects can be used directly and further discussions with the companies are happening. The participants left the hackathon inspired and buzzing with ideas – not all related to mining - that they were keen to develop further.
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