“What I Learned about Hacking” – an alumna shares her story

This journey called the AEC Hackathon has been an amazing experience like no other for me. I have witnessed how the first event birthed a community and change that continues to grow among the global tech and built environment related communities. I have been to all of our events and it is been wonderful to observe how a weekend can be spent making new friends in the quest to solve a problem using technology in a very short amount of time.

The results are incredible. The teams have created applications that make current hardware & software tools work better, work with robots, use virtual and augmented reality, control smart objects, fly drones, find lost tools, improve safety, and a variety of other solutions that are continuing to push the envelope of innovation for AEC and related industries.

In addition to the applications and open source code, their are also teams that use this time to ‘hack’ or think differently about process. I recently received a message from an AEC Hackathon alumna with this story and event coming up that I happily share with you below.


From community member Lilian Asperin Clyman 

What I Learned about Hacking: A Weekend in March 2013

I attended the inaugural AEC Hackathon on a whim and with no expectations. It was the same feeling I had on the very first day of College at Cal. My internal voice said: “Show up, figure it out, have fun and never look back”. Within minutes, what looked like “speed dating” started to take place and it was a rush of meeting a person then understanding what their passion was about. I soon learned that these are precious minutes for first impressions, and that no one has any emotions left if you meet, chat, then decide to continue looking for a match – for the weekend.

One of the giant posters on the wall kept saying “Move Fast and Break Things.” Something really authentic happens when you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. When you all find yourselves saying “Why Not?” It’s a sea of explorers who have zero fear in their heart or mind. We were certainly at Facebook, along with an open kitchen fully stocked with sugar and caffeine. Complimented by a mountain of pizza boxes later in the evening.

Encourage Wild (and Exaggerated) Ideas

A group of us decided to start hacking. We wanted to dive in and think of a cool app or product prototype to build. Our two coders (one from New York and one local) were amazing contributors to the conversation among otherwise architects and builders. We sketched on yards and yards of trace, and summarized our discussion into doodles. What is art? What is space? What makes a team tick? How do we elevate the AEC community? Is it a better 3d modeling software? What would we want to document? Why don’t we learn more from the folks in the field? How do we make better and more efficient environments for human beings?

A brilliant question came from Boris, one of our patient coders. He asked us to think about the root of our discussion more and to not be afraid to embrace the fundamental challenge. “Why don’t you hack the process?” It was a breath-taking, clarifying moment. Almost immediately all us started working quickly and to our individual strengths, but within the collective. The builder who loved story-telling starting outlining how we would approach our diverse audiences. The designer thought about whether or not there is an optimal time in a project for material selection. I began diagramming how we currently do things as a backdrop for our “Hack”. It was a good lesson – we all work well, fast and with joy when we are working to our strengths.

Hacking for Good

Post First AEC Hackathon, I caught the bug big time. Where are other areas in our world where there is a need for innovation? So, the fearless adventurer in me found two partners within SCUP (Society for College and University Planners) and we led the very first Hackathon at the Pacific Region’s annual conference. We dedicated the day to exploring the subject of MOOC’s (Massive Open On-Line Courses), which is a topic many see as either the future of Higher Education or a disruption to avoid. A perfect topic for thinking outside the box, analyzing through the lens of empathy for students, and considering how learning and teaching experiences are so fundamental to our next generations.

This year, I am enthusiastically leading another Hackathon with other architects, this time at the AIA National Convention. Combining the format for the hackathon with the evolving methodology for teaching/learning known as the Flipped Classroom, we will distribute the results of the 2014 Equity in Architecture Survey to participants, and we will ask them to come ready to propose new models to solve challenges within the profession of Architecture. How do we hire and retain the best? What do we do that helps us grow and develop as creatives? Why do we do what we do and is it meaningful for us and relevant to our world? (WE310) Equity by Design Workshop 5/13 1-5pm at AIA Convention

Hope you can join us; we need to hack more!










Great job Lilian! Let’s continue to support one another as a community and keep the change growing.


AEC Hacker