Army researchers learn new problem-solving solutions

March 15, 2017

By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • Researchers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory were invited to participate in a MD5 Hackathon held Feb. 24-26 in Austin, Texas. Participants within DOD, industry and academia used their skills and joined forces to help solve Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief challenges using technology and data to help save lives, during the three-day event.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (March 9, 2017) -- Researchers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory were invited to participate in a MD5 Hackathon held Feb. 24-26 in Austin, Texas.

Participants within DOD, industry and academia used their skills and joined forces to help solve Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief challenges using technology and data to help save lives, during the three-day event.

"Hacking is a term for bringing people together to work on a prototype solution by creating and making something work. The purpose of these events is to educate and build a network of innovators and entrepreneurs both inside and outside of DOD equipped with the incentives, expertise, know-how and resources required to successfully develop, commercialize or apply technology relevant to DOD capability needs," said the leader of the hackathon – Dr. Bill Kernick with MD5 National Security Technology Accelerator, headquartered at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.

Established in 2015, MD5 is a novel public-private partnership between the National Defense University, New York University, and a network of national research universities. The organization seeks to reinvigorate civil-military technology collaboration and value creation through the development of a National Security Innovation Corps – entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs solving high tech problems in the interest of national security.

Kernick reached out to ARL for its participation as MD5 is working a series of partnerships with national labs and university students to work on commercialization plans. ARL participants included Dr. Brendan Hanrahan, who competed in the event; Dr. David Baker, who served as a judge; and Andrew Toth, who mentored the hackers.

Joining the ARL team were additional innovators from the DOD, the University of Texas at Austin, and the Austin community.

"The hackathon gave me the opportunity to learn about challenges faced by the DOD that I don't often think about, in this case humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations," said Hanrahan. "We formed a team consisting of ARL engineers and computer scientists from industry to propose a solution and get almost immediate feedback from stakeholders. It was an exciting experience."

According to Hanrahan, he and his team may continue to look further in to their project, which they called "Thumper."

"Our team demonstrated a proof-of-concept seismic communication technology for scenarios when regular communications are compromised, which is often encountered right after disaster strikes," said Hanrahan. "This technique may have other Army applications and we are considering pursuing it further."

Baker said the amount of teamwork displayed over the weekend was as impressive as the new technologies they were able to employ.

"Most participants of the hackathon were individuals who then formed teams to tackle some common problems which disaster responders face in the field," Baker said. "As a judge, it was intriguing to follow the different personalities of the teams – but the common thread was that these students and entrepreneurs were motivated because this was a real world issue with real world consequences."

Baker said the new technology on display, both software and hardware, will change the way responders work in the field.

"There are many new applications for both the civilian world and the military, and I expect to see at least some elements of what was developed deployed within the next ten years, said Baker."

Reflecting on the success of the Austin Hackathon, Kernick said, "Having ARL at the hackathon brought great technical depth to this event. I'm excited to partner with ARL on future events and to collaborate on the advancement of these solutions."


The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, currently celebrating 25 years of excellence in Army science and technology, is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: March 15, 2017