Gone are the days when computer hackers were only considered to be nefarious types who only engaged in illegal activities that put computer networks and private banking information at risk.

These days, there are hackers involved in collaborative computer programming and a hackathon is an event where those involved in software development work together to fine-tune a programming language, or operating system, or to design applications.

As a digital industrial leader, GE developed Predix, the premier industrial internet platform built for the industrial Internet of Things (IoT). Predix is equipped with a rich set of applications, tools and templates to handle the complex challenges of industrial data and it is open to developers who would like to create Predix-based solutions to industrial IoT problems.

Predix hackathons have been taking place all over the world and for the first time, a Predix hackathon took place in an African country last month. The GE Ghana Predix Intelligent Campus Challenge in Accra, Ghana coincided with the launch of GE Ghana’s Oil & Gas Digital Academy as well as a Women in STEM awards event.

The Intelligent Campus Challenge, which represented the first time Predix was being used by developers in Sub-Saharan Africa, was comprised of four teams of 16 students from Ashesi University College and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).

The  challenge started with students being given a $200 budget to identify the problem and conduct critical thinking around solutions. This was followed by design thinking and four weeks of training, which culminated in brainstorming the necessary resources and then, the students went through a month of coding  to develop apps, documentation and prototyping with the help of a dedicated  team from GE Ghana and San Ramon.

The challenge started in November last year and finished in September this year with a day of judging and digital demos. The two teams from Ashesi identified that energy consumption at the university was a problem nd they both had to come up with solutions that didn’t disrupt the learning process for students.  The teams from KNUST were also concerned about energy consumption, particularly due to lights being left on in rooms and lecture halls that were  not occupied.

The  judges were: Suleman Abubakar, CIO GE Digital; Kwabena Afforo-Addo, Senior Sales Manager BHGE; Angela Kyerematen-Jimoh, Country General Manager IBM; Kobina Beecham, CEO Dataforce Ghana Ltd; Roti Balogun, Regional Learning Leader GE; and Dr. Patrick Ofori, Sustainability Manager GNPC.

“The goal was to get the students to understand the Predix platform and to use it to solve real-world challenges,” said Abubakar. “We also wanted to show developers in Ghana the ease with which they could use Predix.”

The winning team, which walked away with the $3,000 grand prize, was the Onyx team from Ashesi, who developed a system to study room usage over a period of  time in order to predict which halls lights could be switched off with minimal effect on students. The team consisted of Benedict Quartey, BSc. Computer Science; Kawusara Salley, BSc. Electrical/Electronics Engineering; Hector Amoah, BSc. Computer Science; and Mac-Noble Brako-Kusi, BSc. Electrical/Electronics Engineering.

“At GE,  we are the digital industrial leaders, which means we have to be able to build future capabilities with regards to digital industrial skills. Events such as this first Predix hackathon in Africa is a great way for us to  develop skills,” said Balogun.

“I was really impressed with the students. I believe that the challenge lies in creating solutions for real problems and that’s what they did. They used Predix and they came up with solutions that can be used,” said Beecham.

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