I’ve just arrived back from Berlin, which I was primarily visiting for this year’s German AEC Hackathon (last year’s was in Munich, which I attended briefly in the weeks leading up to our big trip). I was there with my family, and we had a great time visiting the city when I wasn’t needed at the Hackathon.
Let’s start with a few tourist shots. On Thursday we visited a few places, such as the Holocaust Memorial…
… and the Berlin Cathedral, which was beautiful inside but had stunning views across the city from its roof.
We were staying with an old friend of the family out in Brieselang, so ended up spending quite a bit of time on the local public transport system.
Berlin is a wonderful city. It has an incredible feel to it: it’s surprisingly green – with trees everywhere, like many German cities – but has a really interesting vibe, too, probably related to its unique place in 20th century history.
I’d last visited Berlin back in 1991, not long after the wall came down. The city has changed quite a bit… we saw a procession of funkily-decorated Trabants driven around the city by Chinese tourists, and Checkpoint Charlie hard morphed into a photo-opportunity worthy of Las Vegas.
It’s still an amazing place, though. I’m really happy I had a reason to visit again.
On Friday, before the Hackathon started, I headed across to Potsdam to meet with colleagues from the InfraWorks team.
Our office in Potsdam came along with the acquisition of 3D Geo, a spin-off from Postdam University. It’s located very near to the University’s leafy campus. A beautiful, peaceful working environment.
After a productive meeting I headed into Berlin for Friday lunchtime, as the afternoon had a number of interesting workshops scheduled.
Arriving at the Hackathon I was happy to see my old buddies Damon Hernandez and Greg Howes, who are largely responsible for having launched the first AEC Hackathons back in 2013.
I spent a little time at the Robots in Architecture workshop, taking the chance to catch up with Johannes Braumann.
Before long, though, I was asked to head over and help out at Jaime Rosales’ sold-out (in fact oversold) Forge workshop. He had 35 (whcih later grew to 40) attendees in a hands-on workshop. Crazy!
Jaime somehow managed to leave 40 people having gone through the basics of working with Forge. An impressive achievement – he definitely earned a beer or two afterwards.
After the workshops there were a number of preliminary evening presentations, followed by lightning rounds and team forming. The setting – an old factory that’s now used by TU Berlin – was simply fantastic!
I headed back quite late, arriving home at about half-past midnight, but it was well worth it: it had been a fun day.
On Saturday I managed to get in for the end of breakfast, where newly formed teams were already hacking away.
My kids had a blast posing for a few photos in hard-hats and day-glo vests.
Hacking was by this point at full throttle.
During the course of the day a number of presentations were held.
Philipp Mueller and other members of the organising committee worked really hard to make sure everything ran smoothly.
One presentation that blew me away was by Long Nguyen, where he talked about the DynaShape project he’d started at last year’s AEC Hackathon in Munich. It’s unbelievable what he’s been able to achieve. A perfect endorsement of the value of these events.
I took the stage myself for a while to talk about Dasher 360 and our use of Forge.
During the afternoon I did my best to give guidance to a few different teams, notably Dive (who were doing some cool particle CFD simulation display using Forge), a team from the Uniersity of Stuttgart doing crazy things with bendable materials…
Sunday morning was mostly about wrapping up the hacking and then creating presentations for the afternoon’s demo session.
This session was held in a lecture theatre and had strong attendance. I sat at the front next to Peter Schlipf – mainly to take photos of the demos – and somehow ended up being part of the jury.
The winners would receive a number of cool prizes, along with fancy gold-painted hard-hats. Woohoo!
There were 25+ teams, so rather than covering every single (often amazing) project, here are photos of the winners…
The best overall project went to Benjamin Felbrich for his Flexamo project, where he integrated the NVIDIA Flex realtime physics engine into Dynamo.
The best mashup-up project went to 5d Rhythm, who were using Dynamo to automate the painting of road markings by a small, wheeled robot.
The best Dynamo project went to Auto.Cooperate, who focused on the problem of transferring architectural models across to be used for structural analysis.
The best Forge project went to Augmented Participative Assembly, who has clearly done some deep thinking about creating an Assembly Information Model that can be represented both via Forge and (eventually) in AR:
The best “problem facing the AEC industry” project was won by Sensual Concrete, who actually seemed genuinely to care about concrete’s feelings. And they used Forge to express these feelings.
The best Maker project went to one of the teams from the University of Stuttgart’s Institute of Computational Design who were creating a really interesting digital twin for high-tech, adaptive materials.
Last but not least was the best From Scratch project, where That BIM Pineapples built a prototype app that imported colour swatches via your phone’s camera that could be used to paint geometry within the Forge viewer.
And yes, as mentioned earlier, this is indeed one of the teams I helped when I could… you can see their full demo presentation on YouTube.
The best Big Data project was won by Geo Spatialist, who used New York City data to create a predictive model of traffic congestion from air pollution levels. Really cool!
All in all it was a great (but tiring, and I wasn’t even hacking!) weekend. Congratulations to all the winners, but also to everyone who came together for this wonderful event. Thank you for making it so worthwhile.
On Monday I spent much of the day with my family at the highly-recommended Berlin Story Bunker, where we learned a great deal about the rise and fall of the Nazi party and the important role Berlin has played in modern European history. If you ever go to Berlin be sure to take the time to see this – it’s a far cry from the type of experience you’ll get less than a kilometre away at Checkpoint Charlie. It’s a really important exhibition, especially given the times we’re all living through.
I’m looking forward to my next visit to this incredible, vibrant city. Thanks to all involved in the AEC Hackathon for giving me and my family the push we needed to visit!