The EUROCONTROL Hackathon - Bringing disruptive technologies through out-of-the-box thinking

8 November 2016

The first EUROCONTROL Hackathon came to a successful end yesterday, 6 November 2016. The event brought together 32 young and talented students from across Europe for an exhilarating three days of coding at EUROCONTROL’s training Institute of Air Navigation Services (IANS) in Luxembourg. The goal was to make use of their out-of-the-box thinking to help create the world’s most innovative and efficient codec for ASTERIX (the All-purpose structured EUROCONTROL surveillance information exchange).

In a video address to the students, Frank Brenner, Director General of EUROCONTROL, declared: “We need to change the underlying way we approach air traffic management. This sort of ambition needs new ways of thinking and a much more agile approach. We are very excited by this event and even more excited to see how young thinkers can help improve Air Traffic Management in Europe”.

Upon arriving at IANS, the youthful coders were given instructions and some material to decode as part of an information/work package. They had two hours to formulate their initial idea and pitch it to the jury and get some feedback. From that moment on, they had 40 hours to develop their proposals. On the third day, the teams presented their methodology and tested their code, aiming to convince the judges that their proposal could be worth developing further under the auspices of EUROCONTROL.

After assessing performance and compliance with the requirements, the jury declared that the 2016 Hackathon Winner was team BlueCloud from Italy, whose creative approach to the challenge and very comprehensive product were recognised. As a reward, each of the team members will receive 1,000 euro and the exciting opportunity to do an internship at EUROCONTROL’s Brussels Headquarters. Accepting the award, Federico Orta from the BlueCloud team declared:

Thank you to everyone! We have met nice people in a nice place, working among nice competitors. All of this allowed us to do our best. As software engineers, we switch focus very often. The knowledge that each one of us has, and the experience you all brought to this competition, has greatly helped us to do our best.

The Hackathon was initiated and organised by EUROCONTROL’s Surveillance Services team, which is part of NMD (Directorate Network Manager). As Jean-Marc Duflot, Head of the Surveillance Services team explained:

This was a completely new experience for us all - a new structure of work with new people to bring new ideas. Now, looking at the success of the event and the creativity of so many enthusiast students thinking out of the box, I would seriously encourage other organisations to conduct the same type of exercise.”

Benjamin Cramet, ARTAS Maintenance Manager, initiator of the Hackathon and one of the judges, added:

The Hackathon was challenging as the topic we chose was quite difficult. The task may have been slightly too ambitious in the given timeframe for some teams. Nevertheless, despite our ambitious approach, I found our participants to be exceptionally bright with inspiring ideas. That made it an unforgettable experience – very demanding, but also very rewarding. Not to mention that the teams involved were quick to respond to any and all challenges they encountered!

Summing up the event, Alex Wandels, Head of IANS, praised the Hackathon for being “a great opportunity to show the EUROCONTROL Training institute to a younger population than we are used to. It was a great chance to make them aware of what we do and of our summer school. We would like to do it again as this was a fantastic experience”.

Interested in finding out more, or possibly taking part in a future EUROCONTROL Hackathon? You can get a flavour of the event as it happened from our feed over the three days on the Hackathon website, Facebook and Instagram.

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