A unique 54-hour ‘mining hackathon’ held recently in Perth has showcased, that Western Australia is much more than a global resources centre and is making its mark as an ‘innovation hub’ where academia and industry are working well together to drive progress

A unique 54-hour ‘mining hackathon’ recently held in Perth has showcased, that Western Australia is much more than a global resources centre and is making its mark as an ‘innovation hub’ where academia and industry are working well together to drive progress.

Named Unearthed, the event brought together software developers, industry insiders and researchers and students from The University of Western Australia (UWA), to collaborate and apply their expertise to operational problems costing the mining sector millions of dollars each year.

Sponsored by Landgate and mining giants BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, and Goldfields, the mining companies presented ‘real-life’ operational problems and data sets to the more than 150 tech-savvy participants at the Unearthed event, facilitated by Resources Innovation through Information Technology (RIIT) at Spacecubed in Perth over the first weekend in May. Within the short 54-hour timeframe, participants brainstormed ideas, developed innovative software solutions and pitched them to industry representatives.

Two teams from UWA participated in the event and two students, Monica Chen and James Hastwell, collaborated with other teams, with Monica’s team winning first prize.

Fifty Grades of Shale, the team from UWA’s Centre for Exploration Targeting (CET), generated a software product to address the challenge of deep exploration and mining, where wireline data plays an important role for geological modelling of deep lithology. “The software provides an interface for human decision making where automated analysis result can be visualised and validated by viewing different feature characteristics in data, “ explains CET’s Associate Professor Eun-Jung Holden, “and two companies approached us after our presentation to  request a follow up meeting regarding our product.”

Fifty Grades of Shale comprised: EJ Holden, Daniel Wedge (postdoc researcher), Chris Gonzelez (PhD), Jelena Markov (PhD), Tom Horrocks (research assistant) and Yathunanthan Sivarajah (PhD).

“We are grateful to UWA’s Energy and Minerals Institute (EMI) for supporting us to participate in this event,” says Holden. “It gave us an insight regarding important challenges for future mining: Brainstorming with professionals and with other researchers from UWA who are working on different problems and who have different capabilities, made us realise  the value and power of a multi-disciplinary approach and put us in an excellent position to develop our team’s capacity to address future challenges.”

UWA’s second team, Stockphiles, was a multi-disciplinary team led by the School of Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE). Team members were Tim French (CSSE), Melinda Hodkiewicz (School of Mechanical and Chemical Engineering), Yuki Osada (PhD CSSE), Max Ward-Graham (Honours CSSE), Lyndon While (CSSE), Ed Cripps (School of Mathematics and Statistics). The team tackled a problem presented by Rio Tinto concerning how to take equipment offline safely for maintenance work without inadvertently shutting down other equipment. They used Directed Acyclic Graph Theory to model the problem and built a user-friendly interactive web-based interface.

"Unearthed provided a fantastic forum for students and staff, to come outside of their own projects, put ideas together and work collaboratively to generate a tangible product in a very limited time,” says Jill Stajduhar, Associate Director of EMI. "UWA was the only university to participate in this event and we are proud to be a member of the Spacubed network which promotes co-working, collaborating and innovation across Western Australia and builds our ‘knowledge economy’ to complement and advance our resource economy.”

To learn more about UWA’s membership of Spacecubed contact Jill Stajduhar.

Photo: The CET-team Fifty Grades of Shale at the Unearthed mining hackathon. L-R, standing: EJ Holden and Chris Gonzalez; L-R seated:  Jelena Markov, Tom Horrocks, Yathunanthan Sivarajah and Daniel Wedge