747 flight sparks innovation ‘hackathon’

Eleven hours, 130 geeks, 22 big ideas. That’s the math that came out of this week’s inaugural “UnGrounded” flight from San Francisco to London, which saw dozens of hand-picked technologists and policy leaders tackling the digital divide at 30,000 feet.

Among the ideas cooked up by Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, former Barack Obama adviser Van Jones and the rest: Solar-powered backpacks to bring mobile computing hot spots to rural areas and a “digital labeling system” built into clothes, consumer electronics and other products to highlight how science and math education helped inspire the innovators behind them.

Simon Talling-Smith, who heads U.S. operations for sponsor British Airways, called the experience “the most energized and unique brainstorms ever conducted.”

BA, along with officials from the United Nations, Stanford University, Google and others, devised the in-flight experiment as a sort of hackathon in the sky. Passengers on the specially outfitted 747 had the duration of one trans-Atlantic flight to think up ways to make science, technology, engineering and math education more accessible around the world.

The top ideas were presented Friday to the U.N.’s top technology adviser and to a gathering of scientists and CEOs that precedes next week’s G-8 Summit of world leaders.

Hamadoun Toure, head of the International Telecommunications Union, which advises the U.N. on tech issues, praised the digital labeling idea as “a great way to celebrate the less visible part of the product.” But he was even more impressed by a proposed online community, called AdvisHer, that would encourage women to study science, technology, engineering and math in college and support them as they sought careers in those fields.

Toure promised that his group would help develop the idea into an actual initiative and fold it into the ITU’s existing programs for girls and women. Within hours of the flight’s touchdown in London, a website for the AdvisHer project had been mounted and was garnering hundreds of Facebook likes and Twitter followers. “Can’t believe what I’m hearing, tearing up,” tweeted Kelly Hoey, the New York tech consultant who came up with the seed of the idea while on the plane.

For more information on the UnGrounded program, including a full list of participants and details on the proposals they developed, go to UngroundedThinking.com.

More in Herald Business Journal

Voters are on the sidelines as the port fills a vacant seat

Troy McClelland resigned from the Port of Everett commission too late for an election before 2019.

In space capsules today, little room but big improvement

Boeing and SpaceX are relying on a tried-and-true design as they each develop new spacecraft.

First Boeing KC-46 delivery to Air Force slides into 2018

Certification milestones have been missed, and problems have emerged in flight test, a source says.

Newest must-try eatery: 85°C Bakery Cafe in Lynnwood

The popular bakery, part of a Taiwan-based chain, is already drawing out-the-door crowds.

Snohomish County tax liens

Tax liens are gathered from online public records filed with the Snohomish… Continue reading

Trudeau: Canada could stop dealing with Boeing over dispute

Boeing had petitioned the U.S. to investigate government subsidies of Bombardier’s CSeries aircraft.

Toys ‘R’ Us files for bankruptcy but keeps stores open

Retailers of all kinds are struggling. Toys ‘R’ Us is among at least 18 other bankruptcies this year.

Marysville-Arlington fiber-optic link planned by Comcast

The high-speed internet line, to be ready next year, is seen as a boost for business development.

‘Cheese that was grass 24 hours ago’ wins a farm accolades

Ferndale Farmstead specializes in authentic Italian cheeses — made with with American milk.

Most Read