Digital Tribes: Bringing Tech Talent to Resources

In Perth on Friday 30th June 2017 at the CORE Innovation Hub, Unearthed kicked off the first of two Digital Tribes hackathon events to take place in 2017. The purpose of Digital Tribes is to bring new tech talent into the resources industry, specifically for BHP. With the unprecedented shift towards digitisation, the resources industry is looking far and wide for those with the skills to join an industry revolution. Unearthed is supporting this mission by running 2 hackathons in Perth and Houston with BHP to offer the opportunity for talented innovators (developers/programmers, data scientist and other such technically skilled individuals) to connect in with the industry.

Digital Tribes Perth opened with 100+ individuals in attendance from a wide range of backgrounds, holding various different interests by being present at this unique event.  View all the photos from opening night of Digital Tribes Perth here.

After the initial kick-off which included opening addresses from Kate Holling, Coert du Plessis and Sam Thomas from BHP, participants finalised their teams by mixing and matching skills in a team forming exercise. Teams were then introduced to the two challenges offered up by BHP from key mentors, providing direct access and insight into one of the world's largest diversified resources companies. Participants took this opportunity to ask questions and gain feedback from the mentors on the approaches they intended to take over the proceeding two weeks.

Angus Jones, Specialist Value Chain, BHP (pictured above with Kate Holling) was one of several mentors briefing participants on the challenges:

"Over the next two weeks you will attempt to improve safety, productivity and reduce costs to BHP, while creating revolutionary solutions to these challenges that lie ahead."


Running accounts of the Perth Digital Tribes event will be made across social media, to follow the activities make sure you are following Unearthed:


Innovator Updates & Highlights:

Michael Clarke:

  • "Well its the end of day 3 of the Perth Digital Tribes event, going pretty well..."
  • "...Ended up in a team with Robert (mechatronics), Yihao (visualisation) and Joshua (currently in KL), interesting people. The BHP folks then gave us a more detailed pitch on each of the challenges which got us talking about which one we should do..."
  • "We grabbed Angus for some more discussion of the operational awareness challenge - which turns out out to be quite different from how it had first been presented. Lots of things to think about..."
  • "Got our Raspberry PI's - with a bunch of extra bits..."
  • "Graders are big, complex machines and the blade can be positioned with a lot of flexibility. The high precision GPS is also on the blade, not the cab, which might make things interesting"
  • "Found a few hours for some research on what the RPI can and can't do. Got lots of notes and starting to get them sorted into some dev streams and proposals. Ready for a playback 0 on one of our ideas - team first, then Angus"
  • "Started work on a physical model of a grader to explore the relationship between the blade and the cab..."
  • "I'm following the tutorial on setting up a Raspberry PI...." "The first tutorial is interesting because it goes on to set up internet sharing to put the PI on the web, piggy backed on the system its got its USB cable plugged into."
  • "Eventually ended up using the Remote NDIS internet sharing device drivers."
  • "Day #5, got the camera connected - on the little connectors, the black bit pulls out about 1mm or so to unlock the connector that came with the case..."

Ben Coman, industry expert located in Perth:

  • Sample Cones image: a sample photo of the site cones used for demarcation of areas


Benjamin Jennings, student from the University of Western Australia:

  • "We've been ratifying some of our assumptions and been able clarify that our solution will have to work 100% offline on an adhoc basis. As much as we'd love to focus on implementing mesh, our biggest realisation is that personnel only have to be aware of what's in their immediate vicinity (much like a zoomed in mini map of a computer game, instead of a complete map). With that in mind, we're working on a wifi hardware based safety beacon like many other groups. We hope to push a bit harder with prototyping the actual hardware, and then explore more possibilities (beyond the coding of the MVP beacon itself) for the software once we have that working reliably."

Greg Biegel, researcher and consultant based in Perth,

  • "We have focused on creating a completely mobile, ad-hoc communication system setup between the Pis (and other device types) to establish fault tolerant communication without any infrastructure in place which has been really successful. We're now going to focus on integrating some sensors onto the hardware, as well as hacking together a bit of software to send sensed information around and do something cool with it."

Karoline Kolman, innovator from Perth, describes herself as being a beginner at using embedded devices like the Raspberry Pi but says she's looking forward to the challenge. Karoline is applying her marketing skills to give her team an advantage when it comes to presenting:

"I want to build my own knowledge. Its not too late to try something new"

A man who is no rookie to the hackathon circuit in Perth is Robert Hortin, a graduate engineer from the University of Western Australia. In his team is Michael Clarke (quoted above) and Yihao Fu. Michael has a background in software architecture design and in his previous job he became familiar with agile and lean frameworks. Working together with three other members, they all appear to be on the same page so far. Yihao is early into his mining degree at Curtin University, and Robert has a biomedical engineering degree and works with start-ups.

"We want to create a product that has as little disruption and adds as much value as possible" - Robert Hortin.


(L-R): Michael Clarke, Yihao Fu & Robert Hortin