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PVM's Hackathon Takes on Maritime Challenges for US Coast Guard

PVM's Hackathon Takes on Maritime Challenges for US Coast Guard

PVM recently hosted its inaugural hackathon, in partnership with Pole Star Defense, bringing together minds from diverse domains to address a pressing challenge in the maritime industry. The event, held at the St. Petersburg Maritime and Defense Technology Hub, showcased PVM's commitment to making a positive impact in the Florida community and beyond.

Read more coverage of this event in the St. Pete Catalyst

Innovating Meaningful Solutions

The hackathon was more than just a technical exercise. For PVM, it was an opportunity to leverage its expertise and contribute to mission-critical problem-solving. As a remote company, the event also served as a unique chance to unite teams in-person, fostering a sense of camaraderie while working toward a shared goal. The Hackathon also gave us a great opportunity to work directly with Pole Star in person, and finally, was a great chance for our technical teams to work together to focus solely on building innovative, interesting, and important solutions.

The Problem: Tracking Illegal Cargo Offloading

The hackathon's mission revolved around a significant issue faced by our client the U.S. Coast Guard: the offloading of cargo between vessels to circumvent tariffs. This practice, while detrimental to ocean safety, health, and more, poses a considerable challenge for detection and prevention. And recently, this problem has been top-of-mind, specifically related to illegal contraband. In early July, recreational boaters in the Florida Keys found 150 pounds of drugs, including 87 pounds of cocaine in the ocean. In June, the Coast Guard confiscated 14,000+ pounds of Cocaine being smuggled through the Caribbean to Florida. And in this year’s Shark Week, Discovery featured a special on “Cocaine Sharks” – which relevantly, investigated if sharks are ingesting cocaine in the water.

PVM's teams were tasked with developing technology-driven solutions to analyze maritime data and identify patterns that could indicate cargo offloading, thereby helping the U.S. Coast Guard ensure maritime safety and stewardship.

The Teams and Their Approach

One of the hallmarks of the hackathon was its unique team structure. Instead of conforming to traditional boundaries, teams of 2-3 individuals were formed. This unconventional approach sparked competition among the teams, pushing the limits of creativity even further.

As the hackathon progressed, teams dove into figuring out how the Coast Guard can use its Track Management System to provide better visibility into the problem, utilizing their diverse skill sets to tackle the problem from various angles. By developing and executing intricate queries, analyzing historical movement patterns, and leveraging domain expertise, the teams identified multiple strategies that the Coast Guard could apply to the problem.

Outcomes: Unlocking the Power of Data

The hackathon ignited a spirit of unrestricted exploration for our PVM engineers. As a result of the event, the three teams developed and presented three different strategies to solve the problem, showcasing the power of data-driven problem solving and dedicating time and creativity to addressing a single issue. An unexpected outcome and exciting discovery from of the event was the opportunity to combine all three ideas to form a sophisticated Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning model that could have far-reaching impact on the Coast Guard's mission.

Overall, the hackathon demonstrated the power of applying a mission focused approach to solving our client’s problems, and the value of gathering in person to zero in on a specific problem set. PVM plans to host more hackathons in the future to deliver innovative solutions for our clients.

Looking to join PVM’s team of creative and mission-focused engineers? Visit our careers page here.