If two heads are better than one, what happens when a few dozen noggins bang together to resolve challenges? As the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) discovered recently, the answer is possible solutions to pesky problems.
In August, over 30 AER employees with different skill sets sequestered themselves in meeting rooms for two days for the regulator’s first “hackathon” event. While hackathons might sound malicious, they are actually great opportunities to inspire innovation through collaboration and problem solving.
“The hackathon event has heightened awareness on how much you can truly achieve through collaboration,” says the AER’s vice president of Science and Evaluation, Jil Macdonald.
Hackathons are competitions for software and program developers, designers, and engineers, and others. The goal is to solve problems or improve processes by developing new software technologies, apps, and even games over a specified amount of time, hence the “athon” suffix.
AER staff recently participated in the regulator’s first hackathon
After the two days, hackathoners emerged from the meeting rooms with software and program application solutions that may one day be developed into real-world tools to help the regulator in many facets of its work, and they presented their ideas to a panel of AER judges.
Two of the many ideas that emerged: an application that allows Albertans to use their smart phones to report odour complaints to the AER, and an app that uses a model that predicts outcomes in order to determine why a statement of concern would lead to a hearing.
“I think we proved to ourselves the value of bringing everyone to the table from different disciplines, and how we think, approach problems, and how we may be able to express and present those ideas and solutions,” Macdonald added.
Expanding the Possibilities
With such a tremendous turnout and such enthusiasm from staff, event organizer Sean Stricker believes the likelihood of more AER hackathons is quite high.
“I am excited to see what we come up with in 2019,” says Stricker, the AER’s manager of Intelligence and Modelling. “I hope to expand the concept and one day hold a hackathon with stakeholders. Could you imagine the possibilities?”