From hardware that improves the safety of police officers, to an app that helps you understand your pantry and plan grocery shopping, hackers, developers, entrepreneurs, and designers came together in early June for Launch Milwaukee’s Hardware Hackathon, a 54-hour event in which independents formed teams to build out an idea to improve the daily lives of users. Held at Ward 4 in the Historic Pritzlaff building in downtown Milwaukee, the Hackathon was a hotspot for new ideas, teamwork, and fun. The Scanalytics team joined in by inviting participants to build upon the SoleSensor platform, affectionately naming this the “Scanalytics Challenge.”
This being my first hackathon, I wasn’t sure what to expect or how it all was supposed to go down. I arrived at the venue with curiosity pulsing through every part of me, and took some time to explore the space. Most of the area was open, with groups of desks and chairs scattered around the large room, and white boards and markers covered any part of the wall that was not a window. A moderately-sized bar stood by the entrance, and several well-stocked refrigerators had been placed beyond the counter. Above the bar hung an elaborate, illuminated metal sign reading “Ward 4”. I couldn’t help but let my mouth hang open in awe.
As other members of the Scanalytics team steadily filtered in, I took the opportunity to talk to some of the participants who were wandering around the space. I struck up a conversation with a couple of guys, Christopher Welker and Michael Cymerman, who seemed intrigued by Scanalytics and the SoleSensor. Of course, I jumped right in, explaining how the floor sensor works and how it benefits each industry it is applied to, happy to add fuel to their fire of curiosity. As the evening went on and I spoke with more people, I was soon firing off to anyone who would listen to my expertise (we can thank the beer for that).
The best part of the weekend by far was listening to the pitches on Friday night. Organizers encouraged anyone who wanted to talk about their idea to stand in front of the crowd and take one minute to tell everyone about their plan, strategy, or vision. I was incredibly impressed by the level of innovation and creativity from each person, who fearlessly plunged into explaining their idea to the attentive audience. It was spectacular to see such a motivated and excited group of people connect and work together to get one step closer to making their dreams reality.
Chris and Mike, who devised a way to implement the SoleSensor platform into industrial manufacturing environments to improve efficiency and safety standards, caught Scanalytics’ attention, and ultimately received 1st prize for the challenge. Having chatted with them earlier in the Hackathon, I had been waiting to hear about their idea, and was not disappointed. Their integration was (and is) a prime example of what can be achieved when people put their heads together.
Launch Milwaukee’s Hardware Hackathon was a very rewarding experience. I got to witness first-hand the process of idea-development, talk with a wide range of people who were just as bonkers for technology as I have come to be, and best of all, I was able to simply be immersed in the positive energy. Winners and prizes aside, all participants showed their chops and demonstrated that Milwaukee is a force to be reckoned with in the technology industry. It may feel like our city has been chasing after the big guys in the tech world, but events like Launch Milwaukee are confirming that the industry is already here.