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Student Interns Win First GEOINT Hackathon
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Developers challenged to produce predictive analysis of disease in West Africa

Jun. 15, 2015
Kristin Quinn

Nearly 30 developers and data scientists turned out for the first USGIF GEOINT Hackathon June 12-14 at DigitalGlobe offices in Herndon, Va.

Participants were tasked to determine why certain areas of West Africa were unaffected by the Ebola outbreak as well as predict where additional outbreaks might occur. However, this was their secondary goal—their primary goal was to expose their team’s thinking and build in hooks so another team working with another geography or outbreak could modify the solution to a new set of conditions.

“It was a fabulous event,” said Dr. Darryl Murdock, USGIF’s vice president of professional development. “The judges learned as much as the participants did and we can’t wait to host another hackathon.”

The first-place team included four student interns and was aptly named “Team Intern.” Their solution focused on travel and revealed an “Ebola superhighway” along the coast of West Africa. They were awarded the $15,000 grand prize as well as complimentary registration to USGIF’s GEOINT 2015 Symposium, to be held next week in Washington, D.C. Team Intern members are:

  • R. Blair Mason, a member of the U.S. Naval Academy class of 2016 and a double major in computer science and aerospace engineering. Mason is currently interning with the Naval Research Laboratory.

  • Briana Neuberger, a soon to be senior at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) double majoring in imaging science and industrial systems engineering. Neuberger is a SMART scholar and intern with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

  • Dan Simon, a rising senior at RIT and intern at OGSystems.

  • Paul Warren, a rising junior at Stanford University majoring in computer science as well as an OGSystems intern.

“We developed an open-source python library to model the spread of disease as it’s carried by contagious people through a network of nodes and edges using network theory,” Warren said.

Simply put, Team Intern’s library aimed to capture where sick people travel and why.

“Once we came up with results, we developed a way to visualize them so they could make meaningful sense,” Mason said.

The team attributed Neuberger for helping “expose the way they think by figuring out how they think.”

The second-place team produced what it calls “non-historic” predictive analysis and was awarded complimentary GEOINT 2015 registration. “Team Flo Hacks” members are:

  • Boris Polania of Hollywood, Fla., a software engineer with post-graduate studies in economics who moved to the U.S. from Venezuela six years ago. Polania recently helped found small software consulting firm V/F.

  • Armando Umerez of Boca Raton, Fla., who recently moved back to the U.S. from Venezuela and is also a partner in V/F. Umerez is an electronic engineer with post-graduate studies in marketing, management, and sustainable development.

“The standard approach of predictive analytics is to go to old data sets and do standard clustering to make generalizations,” the team said in its presentation. “We didn’t want to do more of the same, so we did a completely new approach.”

The third-place team developed an easy-to-use graphical user interface based on sanitation data such as access to water. They were awarded complimentary registration to GEOINT Foreword, the pre-GEOINT symposium science and technology day held June 22. “Team Agile” members are:

  • Nathan Currier, an incoming senior at Colorado State University, Fort Collins majoring in computer science as well as an intern with Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies (SGT).

  • Jesse Pai, a rising sophomore majoring in computer engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park. Pai is also an SGT intern.

Team Agile described their solution as “a lightweight web app” that would be ideal for doctors working in environments with limited connectivity.  Both Currier and Pai are new to geospatial intelligence.

“The main thing that I liked about this experience was the fact that I was forced out of my comfort zone,” Pai said. “I was given a new task and objective, and I had to learn a new set of information and tools in order to understand the task and produce a result. This hackathon allowed me to experience what it felt like to develop for another part of the computing industry.”

The GEOINT Hackathon was sponsored by DigitalGlobe, Esri, and OGSystems, and included judges from USGIF, NGA, DigitalGlobe, Esri, and OGSystems.

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Original Source: Trajectory Magazine