Innovation can be an exhausting pursuit. That was never more apparent than at final presentations for the Unearthed mining innovation event held in Perth on 20-22 March.
Software developers, students, designers, and industry insiders developed prototype solutions to problems experienced in the Australian resources industry. The 2015 event saw 15 teams tackle five different problems in a competition against time as much as against each other. While sleep was in short supply, big ideas and innovation were in surplus.
Unearthed is a 54-hour event designed to create a spirit of innovation using science, technology, engineering and maths skills. The volunteer participants work on proprietary industry data as well as data from government. They also receive mentoring from industry professionals who ensure the teams approach the contest with a commercial mindset.
acQuire Technology Solutions provided one of the challenges and also mentored some of the teams. Director of Research at acQuire, Steve Mundell, reflected on the importance of injecting reality into the event.
“A lot of the teams have no industry experience and many of the participants are still at university,” he said.
“It’s vital the final submissions are viable for a business to evaluate. Many of them never had to consider commercial feasibility before so that added another pressure.”
That sentiment was echoed by Zane Prickett, Director at RIIT, the Australian not-for-profit company that founded the Unearthed event.
“Every successful team keeps these two things in mind – what makes you awesome and what makes you money,” explained Zane.
“And every year the winner is one that takes a different angle on the problem.”
Each team had a choice of five different challenges:
Presentations began at 5:00 pm on Sunday evening with a five-minute time limit strictly enforced. The judging took place immediately after the presentations concluded with the following results:
First prize went to Team “JayBay” for their innovative approach using signal processing and analysis to identify promising exploration opportunities in mineral sands. The team was made up of students from the University of Western Australia
Second prize went to Team “Nanocore” for their real-time QA/QC process management tool.
Team “Big Data 6” took the Iluka Open Innovate prize for their “Jaywatch” solution, which detects coastal features associated with mineral sands deposits. They used fractal geometry and machine learning to build Jaywatch.
The Young Innovators prize recognizes excellence in young innovators. The “Anomolies” team of Ashwin D’Cruz, Callum Webb, and Yuki Osada, all under 25-years-old, presented a solution to improve QA/QC in mineral sampling.
Keeping on trend with previous winners, JayBay took an alternative approach to their solution,
“We understood the complexity and high computational cost of a machine learning algorithm and knew it would not be possible to implement over just a weekend,“ explained Ilyas Ridhuan.
“In order to get any kind of result we had to think of a different way to approach the problem.”
The winning teams received a combination of cash prizes and Amazon Web Services credits. They also took home practical experience about what it’s like to work in a commercial environment.
“We learned a lot about coding under pressure and working as a team under time constraints,” Ilyas said.
“We also learned a lot about how to pitch ideas and construct a good presentation.”
Petr Červenka from second-place Nanocore expressed gratitude for the mentoring his team received from acQuire’s Steve Mundell. No one on his team considered the importance of keeping a business mindset at the onset of the competition.
“That was unexpected; we never considered the commercial part of this competition before we started,” Petr said.
With teams operating on very little rest, the room emptied quickly after the winners were announced. Even seasoned professionals like the acQuire QUBE team beat a path to the door to catch up on missed hours of sleep.
“It was a fantastic effort by everyone and we were thrilled to have two winning teams select the acQuire challenge,” said Steve Mundell.
“There are so many benefits in an event like Unearthed, it’s a great opportunity for the mining industry to get directly involved.
“It’s an investment in our future as much as that of the people participating in the challenges.”
The next Unearthed event will be held in Brisbane, 15 – 17 May. For more information on how to participate visit the Unearthed website.