BCIT students win again: Using AI to solve maintenance-related challenges at YVR

Student teams from colleges and universities across BC gathered at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in mid-April to participate in the second annual YVR Hackathon aimed at redefining the future of airport operations and maintenance. The event culminated in a triumph for BCIT students who secured first, third, and fourth places.

Addressing real-world challenges

The YVR Hackathon, sponsored by BCITNortheastern University, and Simon Fraser University (SFU), in partnership with Schneider and Ainsworth, was designed to address real-world challenges within the airport environment. Over the course of the week-long event, student teams developed innovative solutions to a series of problems identified by YVR’s Maintenance Team.

“The solutions presented by the students during the hackathon demonstrated to YVR Maintenance that there is an abundance of local talent capable of developing practical solutions using machine learning in a remarkably short time frame. The final submissions will significantly contribute to the development of our Facility Machine Learning Enablement program for 2024. Elements will also be directly implemented or further developed by both student projects for implementation onsite. Events like these reaffirm Maintenance and Innovation teams’ dedication to fostering innovation and community collaboration,” says Aran McAteer, Director, Maintenance and Facilities Optimization, Vancouver Airport Authority.

The winning team from BCIT, Team ORA, was awarded a $5,000 prize for their pioneering approach to streamlining maintenance workflows using AI-driven analytics, which impressed the judges for its practicality and potential impact. The third and fourth place teams from BCIT were each rewarded with $1,000, showcasing the depth of talent among our students.

An amazing experience for students

“The YVR Hackathon was a week-long event, and it was an amazing experience! We got a look at some of the cameras and technologies that YVR uses, and integrated our own projects with them. We had a private section in the airport where all the teams were allowed to connect to the cameras with a Raspberry pi (a small isolated computer) that had our code. Many of the teams, including the top four, used the same open-source deep-learning image recognition model to identify objects in live camera footage. The goal was to create a prototype system that combined with the current cameras set up at the airport to identify areas in need of cleaning, maintenance, or other staff attendance.

I think it’s pretty indicative of the quality of BCIT students and programs that our school has won the YVR Hackathon and dominated the podium two years in a row,” says Harrison de Jong, Computer Systems Technology student of Team Call of Code, third place winner.

In total, the Hackathon attracted over 138 participants from colleges across the Lower Mainland. A panel of judges, comprising industry experts and academic leaders, evaluated the presentations based on innovation, practicality, and scalability.

“Seeing our students succeed in such a competitive and practical environment is incredibly rewarding,” said Jonathan Bassan, Director of BCIT Centre for Internet of Things. “These kinds of experiences are invaluable as they bridge the gap between academic learning and real-world application.”

YVR plans to implement some of the top solutions developed during the Hackathon. As airports around the world face increasing challenges, YVR’s proactive approach in integrating the community into its digital transformation journey sets a benchmark for others in the industry, while empowering the next generation of innovators.

BCIT wins for the second year in a row

This is not the first win for BCIT students. At the 2023 YVR Hackathon BCIT student teams shone taking first, second and third place prizes! The consistent success of BCIT students at the YVR Hackathon underscores BCIT’s commitment to fostering a culture of practical innovation and real-world problem-solving. BCIT’s curriculum, designed to merge theoretical knowledge with hands-on experience, prepares our students to excel in highly competitive environments and address complex challenges with cutting-edge solutions.

This victory highlights the exceptional talent within BCIT’s programs and exemplifies our leadership in technical education and industry collaboration. As BCIT continues to push the boundaries of education and innovation, our community takes pride in the significant impact our students are making in the technological and operational advancements at YVR and beyond.

Congratulations to all the winners!

First Place – Team ORA

  • Abhishek Chouhan
  • Bhavnoor Saroya
  • Gurnoor Tatla
  • Mangat Toor
  • Noufil  Saqib
  • Ranveer Rai
  • Towa Quimbayo

Third Place – Call of Code

  • Harrison de Jong
  • Helen Liu
  • Laurie Solkoski
  • Ozan Yurtisigi
  • Samuel Chua
  • Sukhraj Sidhu
  • Sungmok Cho

Fourth Place – Studious Coders

  • Harmanbir Dhillon
  • Jas Singh
  • Jeff Phan
  • Ke Yang
  • Monica Bacatan
  • Parth Chaturvedi
  • Sami Roudgarian
  • Shey Barpagga

Special Thanks

Special thanks to BCIT Business Development leads Marko Vicic and Cynthia Van Ginkel for their efforts and commitment to the YVR Hackathon. Their work in promoting the event and engaging a diverse group of student participants was instrumental in securing another successful year for BCIT.

We also wish to express our appreciation for Jonathan Bassan, Director of BCIT’s Centre for Internet of Things. His leadership in cultivating a strong and mutually beneficial partnership with YVR has led to significant advancements at the airport and provided BCIT students with invaluable real-world learning opportunities. As evidenced by the success of this year’s Hackathon, the collaboration continues to flourish, bringing about innovative solutions and fostering a rich educational environment that benefits both institutions.