See the winning projects from the Elastic MDT virtual hackathon

Back in March when everyone transitioned to working from home, my team and I were brainstorming ways to bring the US DOD community together and help them build solutions to meet the challenges of our new reality. In my experience, missions improve when different teams interact. For that reason, the Elastic DOD team already had many programs in place to encourage interaction, but we were unable to run those programs with changes due to COVID-19. So we decided to run a virtual hackathon within the DOD community. The goal was to bring users together to share new projects to help meet the obstacles everyone was facing together. In partnership with Jason Motte, Cyber Defense & Security Advisor at ICF, and Jho Fernandez, we refined the idea and audience a bit and launched the Mission Defense Team virtual hackathon for the Air Force community on June 10.

Teams of anywhere from two to four participants had until June 18 to complete their projects. We provided access to free training and pre-built datasets and clusters. Hackathon projects could include any combination of ingesting, creating a dashboard, and alerting. From dashboards to new ingestion techniques to best practices for monitoring, anything was on the table. 

We had 20 teams participate, and they shared their projects in 90-second presentations to our judging panel on June 18. The top three finalists were selected and reviewed by Lt Col Matos, and then the winners were announced by ACC/A6 Deputy Director Col Corbett.

See the winning projects

We were so impressed by all the hackathon project presentations. Like, blown away. Every team brought different skills to the table and each one pushed to the limits of their abilities. And the use cases were vast and varied. It was difficult to choose winners, but we zeroed in on a few criteria to make recommendations to our final judges, including MDT usability right now, creativity, and future MDT vision. 

It was really amazing to hear from all the teams, and I wish we could highlight them all here, but we’ll just share the top three winners and what really stood out about what they built.

First place winner

601 AOC MDT (Capt Michael Esquivias, SSgt Aaron Rosenmund, SSgt Devin Scott, SrA Colton Card)

The 601 AOC MDT team took on a vital but huge project to extract new datasets out of firewalls. The data has always been there but nobody wanted to get it because it is so complex. These are datasets that can help every MDT today. The team had to do this at their home to keep the project unclassified so they built a network in their home . . . maybe a little too good. They actually took down the apartment’s network for 15 minutes while doing this. But the enormous effort paid off and these tools can be used by anyone now to better secure networks with this firewall data. See the project for yourself on GitHub. 

1st place winner

Second place winner

673 CS MDT (SrA Harrison Sharp, SrA Wyatt Johnson, Mr. Kyle Topasana)

This group saw the vision of MDTs. They understood that while cyber is important it is not the only important part of their mission. This particular group used Raspberry Pis to evaluate Wi-Fi signals. It was astonishing how much data they could find in this way and what security measures were necessary. They wanted to keep the project unclassified so they used Wi-Fi but then used the same methods to capture the RF of an aircraft and help secure it. They were able to take this even down to geo locating those Wi-Fi routers in their neighborhood via triangulating their signal.

2nd place winner

Third place winner

553 ACNS MDT (Capt Jay Giametta, MSgt James Hansen, SSgt Ryan Flood, A1C Gabriel Coleman)

Many of these teams do the same work everyday. They have to open up three or four screens and compare the results on each screen. It is vital to their mission and kudos to them for doing it every day. This project put effort into combining all of their needs into a single screen. The team combined datasets in a way that they can be used in a single chart. They made URL links fast and available. They made new charts that every MDT can use to do their mission NOW.

3rd place winner

What’s next for virtual hackathon?

The hackathon was really a wonderful way to bring the Air Force MDT community together, and we’re looking to replicate it for other DOD teams. Visit the Elastic free training page to see all the training modules and spin up a free Elasticsearch Service trial to build your own project. Email to get on the list for the next hackathon.