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

Peoples, HomeStreet banks bump lowest salaries after tax cut

The banks with Snohomish County branches will raise minimum salaries for employees to $15 an hour.

Electroimpact cuts Mukilteo staff by 9 percent

“What we’re missing now is a monster anchor project,” the company’s VP said.

Exotic animals find compassionate care in Bothell (video)

At the Center for Bird and Exotic Animal Medicine, vets treat snakes, hedgehogs and even kangaroos.

How can you tell if you are getting good financial advice?

Assume that it’s still the same buyer-beware market that has always existed.

Amanda Strong (left) tries on an Angel of the Winds Arena hat as she and Courtney Brown hand out gift bags after the renaming ceremony Dec. 13 in Everett. The new name replaces the Xfinity name. (Andy Bronson / Her file)
Angel of the Winds to break ground on $60M casino expansion

“We think we’re on the cusp of becoming a major resort.”

In this Dec. 20, 2017, photo, a clerk reaches to a shelf to pick an item for a customer order at the Amazon Prime warehouse, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Amazon’s potential HQ2 sites leaves many cities disappointed

And yet, some municipal leaders are looking at the bright side of being rejected.

How do you retrieve an errant Boeing 737 from a muddy slope?

Turkish authorities used cranes to lift a plane that skidded off a runway.

Don’t take economic forecasts to the bank — or the casino

Air travel delays could spur a rebirth of passenger rail service.

Emirates orders 20 more Airbus A380 jumbos, saving program

The Dubai carrier also has options to buy 16 more. The program seems safe until 2029.

Most Read