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October 11 –13, 2019
Houston Exponential, Houston, Texas

Pumps & Pipes held its inaugural Hackathon October 11-13, kicking off an exciting new P&P initiative. Over the weekend, 23 hackers—including data scientists, software engineers, analysts and subject matter experts from aerospace, healthcare, and oil and gas industries—gathered at Houston Exponential to tackle two industry challenges.

Victor Keasler (RD&E Director Oilfield Chemicals at Ecolab Nalco Champion) and team presented Ecolab’s challenge: Chemists performing field testing often record their notes and results on paper worksheets that can be damaged by spills or lost in transit. Ecolab sought a method to capture these paper worksheets and extract the data in some automated manner so that headquarters could perform further analysis.

The obvious solution is was to photograph the worksheet and use handwriting recognition software to digitize the record. One team went beyond the obvious and saw the paper as the problem. The team hacked until 3 am on Sunday and continued in the morning to deliver a hands-free, voice-activated digital assistant to capture field notes and results. Talk about thinking outside of the box!

Scott Black (NASA Communications Officer) presented NASA’s challenge: Employees of NASA are inherently ambassadors for the agency. Wearing the logo on one’s shirt often attracts specific questions from the public curious about one of the thousands of projects and initiatives NASA is pursuing. Because no one employee can know the details of all those projects, NASA sought a means to quickly and securely search and find relevant answers to these questions and assist employees in becoming better ambassadors for the agency.

A team went to work developing a concept-based search engine. Data scientists sampled data from the official NASA website and developed an algorithm to group documents using natural language processing techniques. The strategy looked solid and a bot was deployed to index NASA’s public-facing websites overnight Saturday. However, when the team reconvened on Sunday, they were in for a major disappointment. NASA’s servers had blocked the bots and the indexing failed. Although the team scrambled to find another solution to crawl the site, time ran out.

Part of the fun when hacking a solution is the unknown unknowns. Even though the team didn’t solve the NASA problem during Hackathon, their teamwork exemplified the collaborative bonding experience central to the Pumps & Pipes program.

Hackathon was hosted by Houston Exponential and their rising star, Joey Sanchez, Director of Corporate Engagement. The facilities and hospitality could not have provided a more comfortable, collaborative Hackathon environment.

Frank Perez, Founder of SFile and P&P Advisory Board member, was instrumental in organizing, structuring and directing the three-day event.

“Congratulations to all that participated in Hackathon. I am so proud of what was accomplished in such a short time and honored to have had the chance to start a new Pumps & Pipes initiative with this inaugural group,” said Perez.

Meaux Energy CEO Gary Crouse said, “It was an exciting weekend collaborating with some of the most talented professionals in our Pumps & Pipes community. In typical Pumps & Pipes fashion, we rolled up our sleeves and saw beyond the challenge to build new solutions, new friendships, and mutual respect for each other.”

Pumps & Pipes looks forward to presenting the Ecolab’s challenge results at the forthcoming Pumps & Pipes 13: Convergence Innovation Symposium on Monday, November 11, 2019.

Special thanks to David Kerr and Mark Sangster for their contribution to the Inaugural Pumps and Pipes Hackathon Planning Committee. 

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