10 Red Balloons X 40 Years = $40,000

In my little pond of color professionals I’m considered quite adept at technology and the Internet but believe me I am far from being a ‘techie’…although I’d like to be. You see I have this belief that those people many consider techies (and maybe even a bit nerdy) are going to rule the world.

Maybe we won’t see them in top positions (most of them prefer to tinker behind the scenes) but when anything significant happens you can be sure they will not only be involved but will be the ones that have the ability and resources to develop solutions while many stand around scratching their heads. If you don’t believe just take a look at how well they fared in the DARPA challenge.

10-Red-Balloons DARPA Network Challenge
From a site sponsored and hosted by the Georgia Tech Research Institute Atlanta, GA

The Idea: DARPA staged a competition to mark the 40th anniversary of the Internet and to explore the roles the Internet and social networking play in the timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization required to solve broad-scope, time-critical problems.

The Challenge: To be the first to submit the locations of 10 moored, 8-foot, red, weather balloons at 10 fixed locations in the continental United States. And, no they weren’t in some remote areas or hidden in any way. All of the balloons were placed in easily accessible locations and visible from nearby roads.
10-Red-Balloons DARPA Network Challenge

Johanna Jones, a spokeswoman for the military’s DARPA, said the hunt is designed in part to give the military new ideas on ways to operate in a range of situations, from natural disasters to combat.

“It’s an opportunity to reach out to groups that are very comfortable with social networking,” she said. “Reaching out to some of these groups, they may actually come up with some great ideas for the future.”

It seems DARPA may not been aware of this awesome ‘nerd power’ when it staged this competition.  Although they were given up to a week to turn in their answers, the winning team found the locations of all ten red balloons in only 9 hours.  Never underestimate the competitive nature and resourcefulness of a group of talented techies.

The Winners: MIT’s Riley Crane only found out about DARPA’s red balloon challenge a few days before it started. Yet his team went on to win the contest through its savvy use of the Internet.

Team MIT’s strategy was to build a Web site designed to attract more and more followers–people who might know the balloons’ locations themselves and those could bring aboard others who knew the coordinates, essentially creating a chain effect.

Read more about the event on CNN.com and more about the winners.

Pretty amazing, huh?  And I bet the $4o,ooo makes the ‘revenge of the nerds’ all that much sweeter.  Nicely done MIT Team!

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