Virtual Kessel Runner Hackathon

August 25, 2020 | By Bruce Katz, Public Affairs Specialist, Kessel Run

What happens when you calculate the sum of 72 hours, 63 hackers and one championship belt in a place where intense customer focus and a bias for action are part of the daily routine? The answer is the first virtual Kessel Runner Hackathon, which concluded Friday.

The event, exclusively created, coordinated and participated in by Detachment 12 (Kessel Run), Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s personnel, allowed members to compete as part of a three-day opportunity to imagine, innovate and hack in the themed area of “Collaboration and Communication.”

“We felt that our organization needed a spark of innovation to rally us all around a common problem space, especially during this time of COVID-19,” explained Capt. Taylor Curtiss, a KR product designer who also served as a hackathon planner and mentor. “We decided to plan the first ever virtual Kessel Runner Hackathon to get people excited and to create a little competitive distraction.”

Fourteen teams spent their allotted time crafting ideas, solutions and presentations for review by a panel of four judges in their quest to be named the Virtual KR Hackathon Champions.

“I found this one of the most exciting activities I've participated in since my time in the Marines,” shared Adam D. Benson, a data scientist and a participant on Team Thor’s Mattermost hack and solution to automatically archive old, unused threads. “We proposed a project, set its scope, wrote out a task plan, developed and tested our code, and delivered it on time! Who gets to do that, I ask you?”

According to Curtiss, teams developed hacks from new pairing apps to threading recommendation algorithms and the team members worked together and in creative ways to solve challenges the KR workforce sees or experiences in daily operations.

The top three teams, Sky Narwhals, Hackaroni & Cheese, and Space Toast Coast To Coast, saw its members presented a commander’s challenge coin for their efforts and hacks.

"It is always rewarding as a commander to see the ideas, energy and accomplishments of well-engaged team members," said Col. Brian Beachkofski, Kessel Run's commander and a hackathon judge. "I was excited to see folks inside the organization develop and foster the idea of this event and get such great community participation. It speaks highly of the people and the innovation I get to witness daily."

With only one championship belt and the associated bragging rights to accompany the win, the judges selected Space Toast Coast To Coast and its pairing tool, called “Pear It”, as the event winner and hackathon champion. The winning submission was the collaborative work of Kessel Runners Jon Smithers, Ricky Orndorff, Jacob Fournier, Antony Lulciuc and Marc Schlossberg.