Could a series of hackathons help advance military technology?

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The US Space Force (USSF) and Aviation are teaming up to launch a hackathon challenge, called CONGRATULATIONS 1. This hackathon takes place from July 18 to 22 and is organized by the Space Force Base Patrick in Florida, the Common base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, and the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

This hackathon can not only help foster greater collaboration between the USSF and the Air Force, but could also create new opportunities for innovation within these two branches of the US military.

Context: what is a hackathon?

Hackathons, events where large numbers of individuals come together to work collaboratively on coding, have become popular in recent years, primarily due to the opportunities they provide in the Technology industry. Events generally operate around the premise of collaborative coding challengehosted by a business or organization, where participants work to solve a difficult problem or come up with a new idea.

Hackathons are widely used by students and new programmers as they are a way to quickly learn new skills while achieving a productive end goal. Many of these challenges are open to the public and even offer lucrative rewards for a winner. It’s no surprise that these events are popular, as they also provide networking opportunities. According to employee of mobile app design company Movel Levent Gurses, “One of the best things about hackathons is the opportunity to meet new people who care about the issue or technology you care about.”

Analysis: BRAVO’s challenge

The USSF and the Air Force are less focused on networking with the new BRAVO I hackathon. This challenge is part of the larger WELL DONE series, seeking to innovate and solve technological problems. The previous CONGRATULATIONS 0 challenge has produced new solutions for system control as well as post-flight data analysis.

According to the Department of the Air Force’s Director of Digital Transformation Stuart Wagner, “The DoD talks a lot about connecting weapon systems, but has been too slow to implement game-changing data-driven capabilities. BRAVO hackathons leverage existing Department of Defense technologies to provide hackers with the development environment and operational data to rapidly build data-driven kill chains and cognitive electronic warfare capabilities. Wagner emphasized that these challenges are not just for the military. “If you are an authorized or unauthorized U.S. citizen with technology skills seeking to build national security capabilities during a week-long event, this is your opportunity,” he added.



Like the BRAVO 0, the BRAVO 1 challenge allows military and civilians to work together using open source data. However, for the BRAVO 1 challenge, the USSF and the Air Force want 60% among the participants were government staff. While the goals of this specific hackathon are unclear, the two branches hope to exemplify new cloud sharing capabilities for data analysis and technology advancement.

Outlook: another hackathon to come

Although this is the first hackathon hosted by both the USSF and the Air Force, the Air Force itself has experience with hackathons. This military branch has hosted other coding challenges focused on cybersecurity, aerospace, and digital engineering. This new joint hackathon will represent just the latest in the ongoing BRAVO series, with the likelihood that similar hackathons will follow in the future, using military expertise and experts from across the country to develop next-level solutions.

Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is a Debrief Writer and Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado at Boulder and NIST). His writing beats include Deep Tech, Metaverse, and Quantum Tech. You can find more of his work on his website: https://kennacastleberry.com/

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