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DOD Takes Hackathon to University of Michigan

September 24, 2019

This report originally publishes at marines.mil.

The Defense Department today is wrapping up a three-day “hackathon” aimed at using artificial intelligence for aircraft maintenance.

Held at the University of Michigan’s School of Aerospace Engineering in Ann Arbor, the event brought together more than 50 computer hackers from academia and commercial industry in the Detroit area to work alongside 30 DOD end user military maintainers to share ideas and explore AI solutions for predictive maintenance.

“The collaboration between the hackers and our military maintainers provided thought-provoking and meaningful ideas to advance AI-enabled solutions …” Army Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center

“The Department of Defense is a large and dynamic enterprise, but it represents only a fraction of the U.S. population,” said Morgan Plummer, managing director of the National Security Innovation Network. “We want to hear the ideas and harness the creativity of students and industry professionals to help the Department of Defense [find] AI-enabled solutions for predictive maintenance that will make us safer and more efficient.”

The hackathon was sponsored by the National Security Innovation Network and the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.

“Our goal is to increase the quality and fidelity of the data we collect,” said Marine Corps Maj. Dan Tadross, an AI mentor from the JAIC. “This requires hackers to explore divergent thoughts and propose imaginative and unique solutions that we in the Department of Defense might not have thought about before.”

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The hackathon challenged participants to examine two primary focus areas with data collection and user interface. Hackers were asked to present AI solutions for recognizing, classifying and quantifying maintainer actions in a way that’s intuitive for end users. 

Solutions were evaluated by a panel of judges based on the potential impact, validation, level of demonstration and the viability of bringing the solution to market. The winning teams received up to $15,000 to advance their concepts in collaboration with the National Security Innovation Network. 

Three prizes were awarded. 

“This hackathon brought together a diverse group of incredibly talented and innovative people who, in a very short time, developed and presented creative solutions to a challenging problem,” said Army Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and one of the judges.

Hackathon Photo by Courtesy

“The collaboration between the hackers and our military maintainers provided thought-provoking and meaningful ideas to advance AI-enabled solutions in the important field of predictive maintenance,” he said. “It’s exactly the kind of relationship we want to foster across the entire JAIC.”

NSIN is a DOD program that reports to the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering through the Defense Innovation Unit. Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, NSIN  has regional offices in 10 commercial innovation hubs throughout the United States. 

Through its headquarters, regional hubs and embedded university partnerships, NSIN builds a national network of innovators and delivers programming that solves problems through collaboration with nontraditional problem-solvers in academia and early-stage commercial ventures.

JAIC’s mission is to accelerate the adoption and integration of artificial intelligence in the U.S. military. The center serves as the focal point for the execution of DOD’s artificial intelligence strategy, which supports the 2018 National Defense Strategy. 

JAIC is guided by ethics and leadership as core foundations to its mission.

U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) reports are created independently of American Military News (AMN) and are distributed by AMN in accordance with applicable guidelines and copyright guidance. Use of USMC and U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) reports do not imply endorsement of AMN. AMN is a privately owned media company and has no affiliation with USMC and the DOD.