The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) Velocity Center recently challenged area scientists, inventors, and STEM students to solve real-world problems in the center’s first-ever VelocityX Community Innovation Hackathon.
Six teams vied for cash prizes from a $12,000 pool by working together to solve problems faced by CSM, the Town of Indian Head, and the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC). For CSM’s Tech Eval Challenge, the issue required participants to address decision-making and transparency in addressing software and technology requests. The Town of Indian Head presented a Cost Coordination Challenge in search of a way to evaluate vendor contracts for the price, schedule, and performance to maximize the town’s limited resources. And NSWC asked attendees to solve their Range Testing Analytics Challenge to help them better record and organize the massive amounts of data generated by their tests.
“We planned this event to bring the community together and around issues, we face and bring the best and the brightest to address these challenges,” said Ellen Flowers-Fields, CSM’s associate vice-president for continuing education and workforce development, in welcoming attendees to the event. “Our goal is to support and help you as you move through addressing those challenges.”
The teams each chose one of the three challenges and had two days to devise and create a prototype of their solution, which they then presented to a panel of judges. Teams had access to Velocity Center resources as well as a group of mentors to assist them as they moved through the challenges.
“There are opportunities to build bridges because everyone here is local,” said Velocity Center Executive Director Lesley Quattlebaum. “It’s possible that the solutions these teams came up with could have real-world implications, or that the connections being made could lead to future partnerships. We are so excited to be hosting this event because we want the Velocity Center to serve as a hub for exactly this kind of innovation and teamwork.”
“The most exciting thing to me here is the cross-collaboration – everyone is talking to each other and building relationships,” agreed Ollie Gerland, the director of the strategy and product for Ensemble, who partnered with the Velocity Center to run the Hackathon, noting that teams were comprised of CSM students, members of the local workforce, and even community members.
First-place winners in each challenge were awarded a prize of $3,100, second-place winners received $1,600, and third place came with $1,100. The top student team also received a membership to the Velocity Center’s Makerspace.
For CSM students, competing in the Hackathon gave them something even more valuable than prize money: the opportunity to work alongside experienced teams and practice tackling real challenges they might face in the workplace in a collaborative, fun setting.
“You can do as many projects as you want on your own, but it’s always more exciting to get together as a group to work on tech-related stuff,” said Ethan King, a computer science student and member of the team @n0NyM0u5 H@wK$, which took home first place in the CSM Tech Eval challenge. “The opportunity to be part of a team is the main reason I signed up for this event.”
The full list of winners are:
Tech Eval Challenge:
- First Place: @n0NyM0u5 H@wK$
- Second Place: Team Finessed
Cost Coordination Challenge:
- First Place: Team Old Bay
Range Testing Analytics Challenge:
- First Place: 111%
- Second Place: Tesla, But Better
- Third Place: Jon Davis
This event was just one that the Velocity Center is hosting this spring. On June 15, tune into Live @ the Velocity Center to hear a simulcast series highlighting innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship in the Southern Maryland region. Episode 5 – ‘What is a Makerspace?,’ will feature a dynamic panel of experts offering insights into the role of Makerspaces as learning spaces to support academia, workforce development, and economic growth.
Attendees at that event will tour the state-of-the-art Makerspace at the Velocity Center. Equipped with a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers/scanners, laser cutters, and other digital fabrication and engineering and product design equipment, this is a collaborative community workspace for manufacturing, learning, exploring, and sharing.
The Velocity Center is approximately 13,000 square feet located outside of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Division (NSWC IHD). The Navy utilizes the Velocity Center for conferences and meetings, and to hold a multitude of professional development activities and events. Navy scientists and industry leaders can interact with students in tech transfer courses and have a place to tinker and conduct unclassified research. The community can take advantage of the Makerspace in the Velocity Center as well as workforce and professional development courses such as Computer-Aided Design, Cyber Security, Drones/Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Government Procurement, Social Entrepreneurship, and Tech Transfer Entrepreneurship.