Nurturing tech talent at Hack Arizona 6.0

When people think of Tucson, Arizona, they don’t always think of technology innovation. But for one weekend in January, hundreds of students from across the University of Arizona holed up in the Gould-Simpson building to create innovative software and hardware solutions. The students were participating in Hack Arizona 6.0.

Since it began in 2015, Hack Arizona has grown to be one of the largest collegiate hackathons in the country. Teams of up to four compete for 36 hours to win prizes from some of the largest tech companies in the nation.

“It’s a chance for students to show their creativity and technical prowess,” said Eric Hambright, Development Manager at Hexagon’s Mining division. “It is a great opportunity to get the word out to the University students, especially computer science majors, that we are a technology company and always looking for talented people.”

Eric Hambright and Shewangizaw Astatike judge a team participating in Hexagon’s hackathon challenge.

This year, Hexagon sponsored two prizes: the best use of geolocation and the best use of data visualization.

“A lot of our products rely on geolocation,” Hambright said. “Our fleet management, our safety products all use geolocation data. For mine planning, we use a lot of data analytics and visualization to help cut losses and maximize profits.”

Sonic and Tails to the rescue

We awarded the best use of geolocation prize to Team 35: Sonic Adventure 3. They created a solution for finding people during natural disasters with aerial and ground robots. A drone uses Bluetooth detection, C02 sensors, and thermal imaging to locate people from above. A complementary ground vehicle controlled by radio frequency helps conduct searches in tight, hard-to-reach places.

“In the event of an earthquake or explosion, they can detect where people are,” Hambright said. “It would provide a heatmap to the rescuers to show where they were able to ping those signals.”

The debt collectors

The prize for data visualization went to Team 5: Data Visualization – US Debt Graph. The group created a way to visualize the national debt using CSS, HTML and JavaScript. Their graph shows a debt predictor and even drills down to show how much each U.S. president has contributed to the debt.

“It was a really good analysis of the US debt over time, by political party, by president,” Hambright said. “The project was really meant to draw awareness to the issue.”


Hexagon’s hackathon challenge winners pose for a group photo with the judges.

Tucson tech talent

While the goal of Hack Arizona is to give individuals an opportunity to work with and learn more about new technology, one of Hexagon’s goals is to be recognized as a technology company.

“Most of our developers didn’t know anything about mining when they started with the company,” Hambright said. “We are really looking for people trained in computer science and computer engineering. We need subject matter experts with the mining expertise, but we need technical people as well.”

In recent years, Tucson has become a national hub for mining technologies. Companies like Caterpillar, Modular Mining and Hexagon have all decided to call the city home.

“Tucson is a tech city. In the mining sector especially, there is a lot of technology here,” Hambright said. “It’s only going to continue to grow.”

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