Shoestring hackathon October 2019


After the successful hackathon challenge run in the IEEE Students’ Hackathon at Metrology for Industry 4.0 and IoT, DIAL is organising the first full event of this kind targeted at students of the University of Cambridge. This hackathon invites students to address creatively some of the real-world digital problems manufacturing SMEs face by using low-cost off-the-shelf and open-source technologies.

The Hackathon aims at the construction of digital solution prototypes in areas such as inventory management, process monitoring and human-machine interaction requiring students to work with sensors, develop mobile apps and program low-cost microcomputers and microcontrollers such as Raspberry Pis and Arduinos.

Important dates

Key dates for hackathons

PLEASE NOTE: This event is open to University of Cambridge students only.
Lunch and dinner will be provided on Saturday 26th.
Lunch and afternoon refreshments will be provided on Sunday 27th.


Challenge 1: Shelf occupancy sensor system
Inventory management is an area where many manufacturing SMEs believe they could benefit from the use of digital technology. In this challenge, participants will develop a low-cost system that can detect whether a bay in a shelf is occupied. The system must be able to attach to an existing shelving set-up (without modifying the shelves).

Challenge 2: Hands-free digital drawing navigation
Many SMEs are looking to move from printed drawings to digital drawings to reduce paper usage and ensure that workers always have the latest revisions. However, interacting with a digital system while working can be difficult, especially for jobs like welding where operators wear PPE-like gloves. In this challenge, participants will develop a low-cost system that uses an open source voice assistant to convert workers’ voice commands into navigation instructions for a drawing viewer program.

Challenge 3: Getting data from legacy control panels
Many SMEs have key pieces of equipment that do not provide interfaces for data extraction. For instance, control panels present operational data through the combination of dials, lights, position buttons and displays. In this challenge, participants will develop a non-invasive low-cost system capable of monitoring a control panel, extracting operational data, and making it available in digital format.

Hackathon flyerFurther information about each challenge can be found in the hackathon flyer – Shoestring hackathon flyer.


Please download and read these documents which provide key information: 

Judging criteria & awards

Judging will be done by an independent panel of judges from both academy and industry. All digital solutions prototypes will be assessed in terms of low-cost development, technical aspects and presentation. 

The best solutions will receive ‘deluxe’ cinema tickets.

To enter

Sign up or find out more at:


This hackathon is organised by the Distributed Information and Automation Laboratory at the Institute for Manufacturing, and Cambridge University Engineering Society.


Map of the IfM location

The hackathon will be held at the IfM in Cambridge:
Institute for Manufacturing, 17 Charles Babbage Road, Cambridge, CB3 0FS

Contact us

Contact information

Supported by

With thanks to the supporters of this event…

ANDtr logo
Warren Services logo
Siemens logo
Pitch in logo
CUES logo