After the successful Shoestring hackathon run in 2019, the members of the Shoestring project are organising the second event of this kind targeted at students of the University of Cambridge and the University of Nottingham. This online 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 quality control, virtual processing and smart corrective instructions, requiring students to work with off-the-shelf and open source technologies as well as pieces of hardware, like cameras or microcontrollers.

Given the unprecedented COVID-19 situation this event will be held online.

Important dates

PLEASE NOTE: This is an online event for students of the University of Cambridge and the University of Nottingham.


Challenge 1: Automated Machine Vision Quality Inspection
Machine vision based quality inspection allows product quality to be checked and tracked in real time. In this challenge, participants will develop a 2D low-cost visual inspection system able to pass/fail parts or assemblies. The solution must be able to support different levels of inspection such as with or without realistic backgrounds.

Challenge 2: Intelligent Fault Diagnosis Assistance
Manufacturing equipment can be very complicated, especially when it comes to fixing faults or errors. In this challenge, participants will develop a chatbot system that helps workers work out what is wrong and guides them through the process of fixing it.

Challenge 3: Virtual Operational Process Planning
Maximising operational efficiency within an SME is important for minimising delivery time while increasing profit margins. In this challenge, participants will develop an online system for optimising operational logistics and packing. The solution must be able to capture key operational processes of a multi-site company or a shopfloor.

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


Please dowload 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 solution prototypes will be assessed in terms of low-cost development, technical aspects and presentation. 

All submitted and presented challenge solutions compete for a prize pool of £400.


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


Given the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, this event will be held online by the Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge, and the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing, University of Nottingham.

Contact us

Supported by

With thanks to the supporters of this event…

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