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At Seattle Hackathon, software engineerS find another win-win

At Seattle Hackathon, Software Engineers Find Another Win-Win

by DANIEL JIN and CHRIS LARSONsoftware engineers, Newforma | Oct 31, 2015

Some exciting tech is being used in design and construction today, including laser scanners, drones, and virtual reality (VR). But the latest AEC Hackathon 2.5, held Sept. 25-27 at the University of Washington, did marry our industry with the separate  Seattle VR Hackathon to see what kind of "love children" could be born.

How can VR be applied to design? Consider this: An architect designing a restaurant created a virtual reality kitchen that the chef could “test drive.” The chef donned the VR goggles and said things like: “This counter is a foot too far away,” and “Could you move this equipment three feet this way?”

Now while that specific example did not happen in Seattle, it does suggest the kind of invaluable input that VR can make available to designers striving to make a space “work”! Such was the idea behind the recent AEC-VR Hackathon "mashup" Seattle in which we participated. 

For our hack, we wanted to create a way to keep all employees on a construction site in sync with one another. So, we developed a mobile app that could create subscriptions for things like deliveries or emergencies. Then, any user could notify all subscribers of a particular item simultaneously, as it happened. With moving pieces that have to be timed perfectly and coordinated between teams, we thought this technology would be very useful to many. Working on this hack made us put ourselves in the shoes of a construction worker on the jobsite, and helped us to appreciate and understand what their needs and wants would be.

And that’s the real value of these Hackathons. They get developers thinking like the people who’ll use their technologies, which leads to better work all around.

This marked the AEC Hackathon's second trip to the Pacific Northwest Center for Construction Research and Education in the last 12 months. Sponsors included the University of Washington, Skanska, Mortenson Construction, IDEA builder, The Digit Group, Newforma, the National Institute of Building Sciences and media partner BuiltWorlds, among others.

For more on the event, including a list of the winning teams and their hacks, click here. At left, Larson and Jin, both made the cross-country trip from Boston to Seattle for the combined hackathons.

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