Mentoring at the Hackathon

Mentoring at the Hackathon

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Last week, I participated in my first Hackathon as a mentor. The challenge of the hackathon was to develop new innovations and ideas for smart cities based on harmonized spatial data of the GeoE3 project. The role of the mentors was to provide support, offer new perspectives, and boost the teams to win the competition.

All participants were encouraged to have fun

Participants were provided with interoperable and compatible data on 3D buildings, road networks, solar radiation, elevation models, wind speed, and so on, giving them a lot of freedom for their ideas. I don’t know if there are many other opportunities to use so many similar datasets from so many countries at the same time.

Indeed, the uniqueness of the event was the interoperability between spatial datasets across national borders. For example, the data was similar from Estonia and Finland, which allowed completely new data integration possibilities. Some teams grasped this concept and utilized scalability, while others focused on more local ideas.

The winning ideas all shared scalability and location independence. The same concepts could be applied in both Finland’s rural areas and Paris’s metropolis. The first-place idea utilized artificial intelligence to produce highly detailed Building Information Models (BIM) from 3D buildings and floor plans. Hopefully, this idea will take off after the Hackathon.

Hackathon mentors, staff and participants on-site and online.

I went to the event without any background information. I did not know what happens at Hackathons or what is my role exactly, I just hoped to be useful. To my delight, my mentoring was surprisingly beneficial to the teams. I was able to offer various kinds of support to all my teams. I helped some teams with technical solutions and brainstormed with others.

The teams had very diverse starting points and backgrounds, so their focus varied a lot. Mentors also had a wide range of skills, so we were a perfect match. There was always a mentor available for each problem despite its type.

I found the experience extremely useful and learned a lot. Seeing how draft ideas turned into professional pitches in less than 48 hours was amazing. For me, the greatest benefit of the event was the informal side and all the conversations with new people. I met many interesting people and heard their stories. Based on this positive experience, I really want to participate in similar events someday, maybe as a competitor.

More information about the hackathon

Alpo Turunen
Spatial Data Specialist
Finnish Geospatial Research Institute / National Land Survey of Finland