NSIN Hacks POLAR VORTEX Hackathon concluded with three winners that presented data-sharing solution concepts for geospatial data in austere Arctic environments.

More than 340 innovators, including academic and early-stage ventures, participated in the NSIN Polar Vortex virtual hackathon, which concluded Aug. 5, 2021, with three teams that earned a total of $45,000 in contract funding.

The final pitch event began with keynote remarks from Mr. Robert Cardillo, United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) board chair, and Mr. Phil Chudoba, associate director for Capabilities, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA).

During his remarks, Mr. Cardillo thanked the National Security Innovation Network team, noting, “NSIN is a necessary and important force of innovation for the defense community.”

As Mr. Chudoba noted, ‘If you’re tracking our strategic directive for NGA, and you hear about Moonshot… it’s a meaningful metaphor for us as we focus on peer adversaries and decision dominance. Things like the Arctic are crucial.’

For the live-pitch final round, a total of eight teams were selected to present, representing a mix of student teams and early-stage ventures for the finalist round of pitches.

“The collaboration from each of NSIN’s 11 regions for this collision event was outstanding,” said Kedar Pavgi, NSIN Hacks Program Manager. “Our panel judges, including geospatial experts and military leaders, were impressed with the quality of these solutions and the anticipated viability in real-world scenarios.”

The Polar Vortex winners each receive $15,000 to develop their solution further and help the Department of Defense (DoD) end-users solve this mission-critical problem.

Meet the Winning Teams:

  • Polaris Communications Module - The Polaris Communications Module is a small, portable laser comms system to integrate into any field system requiring comms, including human-crewed and uncrewed vehicles, observation stations, and personnel-carried devices.
  • Parasanti- This team of veterans, data scientists, and farmers propose an edge processing solution fusing hardware and software to deploy AI/ML algorithms in containers to the edge.
  • GEE ISD - As global warming accelerates the melting of sea ice and glaciers, tracking of multiple icebergs and ships becomes essential for military operations in the Arctic. Team GEE ISD proposes the development of an iceberg and ship database based on various satellite images from the Google Earth Engine (GEE).

The ‘Polar Vortex’ hackathon virtually challenged participants to solve one of three focus areas for geospatial data collection in the Arctic:

  • cybersecurity, geospatial intelligence access in remote areas;
  • user experience through machine learning; and
  • artificial intelligence (AI) to make sensor data useful and actionable.

NSIN created ‘Polar Vortex’ based on the growing demand and need from the DoD for higher quality intelligence-gathering efforts in the Arctic, as the region is becoming increasingly important because of melting polar ice and the possibility of travel in previously hostile environments.

Elements from each military service are operating in the Arctic and rely on imagery to conduct day-to-day work. Technologies to facilitate this intelligence also can shape civilian work, especially within the fields of climate change research and planetary science.

“Within the Arctic it is critical that we are developing technologies to facilitate geospatial data sharing, as we are creating transparency for the DoD to focus on peer adversaries,” Pavgi said. “It shows the power of the NSIN network of innovators when teams from Texas and Arizona can win a hackathon event like Polar Vortex.”

Strategic partners for the Polar Vortex hackathon include Washington University in St. Louis; University of California, Berkeley; San Diego State University; University of Washington CoMotion; Georgia Tech; University of Nebraska- Lincoln; University of Hawai’i at Mānoa; Rice University; Esri in Redlands, CA; and T-REX in St. Louis, MO.

Zoom Recording

Watch the final pitch round competition for ‘Polar Vortex’ here.

About NSIN

NSIN is changing the way the Department of Defense solves problems. NSIN is building a diverse network from academia, entrepreneurial innovators and the defense community to leverage our nation’s greatest asset- people. NSIN is headquartered in Arlington, Va., and has 11 regional offices in commercial innovation hubs throughout the U.S.