Solving Community Problems Through an Innovation Hackathon


College of Southern Maryland - Velocity Center




Inaugural VelocityX: Community Innovation Hackathon



Ensemble was tasked with developing, managing, and executing an innovation hackathon at CSM’s Velocity Center located in Indian Head, MD. CSM’s goals of the hackathon were to promote the Velocity Center, a space dedicated to innovation, learning, and collaboration for academia, the Navy, and the Southern Maryland region, while also engaging the local community and solving local problems. 



In order to reach the goals that CSM had for the hackathon, we worked with Brightidea’s innovation platform to host the hackathon website, collect hackathon registrations, and provide a forum for participants to collaborate and submit their solutions. We worked with stakeholders at CSM and within the Indian Head community to understand what problems they faced, and how VelocityX could address them. When thinking about how to best make an impact on the different aspects of the Indian Head Community that CSM desired, we decided to split the hackathon into three separate challenges. These included: 


1.The Range Testing Analytics Challenge which aimed to streamline the collection, aggregation, and analysis of Range Testing data for the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) at Indian Head


2. The Cost Coordination Challenge which aimed to improve the research, purchase, and analysis capabilities of the Town of Indian Head as staff buy and use different products and services


3. The Tech Eval Challenge which aimed to develop a sustained process to institutionally evaluate software and technology requests for CSM?


With weekly meetings held to discuss both the logistics of the hackathon and the development of the Brightidea platform, we were able to design an impactful program that met the needs of CSM. Ensemble developed challenge branding and marketing materials that both fit the CSM Velocity Center brand and the feel CSM wanted the hackathon to have. We also developed an in-depth communication plan. Using this, Ensemble conducted outreach through multiple channels including email blasts, social media, and community connections to recruit hackathon participants and judges. 



The hackathon was held virtually, and in person at the Velocity Center from May 19 – May 20. 7 teams could attend in person, and 5 teams were able to attend virtually. Along with the teams, we had 5 judges and 6 mentors who helped make the hackathon a success.  


VelocityX had a total prize pool of $12,000 which was divided between the first, second, and third place winners for each of the challenges. First-place winners in each challenge were awarded a prize of $3,100, second-place winners received $1,600, and third place came with $1,100. The top student team also received a membership to the Velocity Center’s Makerspace. 

Hackathon Advisor Dan Pines assisting a team with their solution. Photo Credits: Matt Poynor of NSWC IHD.