This year’s Big Earth hackathon is focused on addressing the multi-faceted, highly critical and challenging topic of wildland fires. We have identified three focus areas, described below, that are particularly important and have potential for innovative data-driven solutions. Teams can define projects in any of these areas, or at the intersection of one or more areas.


Wildland fires affect many different segments of the population. Impacts range from injuries, or even death, to property loss or damage, from dislocation to temporary or long-term health impacts, both directly or indirectly. In this focus area, you are challenged to find which groups are affected by the risk, occurrence and recovery from wildland fires and to what extent. You may extend your study by looking at what strategies/policies could be put in place to promote equity and fairness.


In recent years, wildland fires have become both more prevalent and more devastating. The fire season and fire regions are also shifting. In the meantime, more and more people live in the wildland-urban interface where the risk of fires is higher.  In this focus area, you are asked to consider related questions, such as: which communities, areas, and structures in California are at greatest risk of wildfires now and in the future; what are the health impacts of smoke, both near and far-field; and what is the efficiency of existing evacuation routes and response efforts?


Current mitigation strategies for wildland fires include controlled burns, public safety power shutoffs, removing fuel in at-risk areas, and others. In this focus area, you are asked to shed light on which are the most effective and efficient mitigation efforts for wildland fire risk. Are traditional efforts effective or are their better alternatives available? Another way of formulating this quest: can you advice on what mitigation strategies can give communities, or California as a whole the “best bang for the buck”?


  • Only Stanford affiliates (undergraduate or graduate students, alumni, or postdocs  are allowed to participate in this inaugural event)
  • Teams of 1-4 people
  • Must be registered via website


Project descriptions and hacks must be posted to devpost prior to 10am on Monday, June 1.

Hackathon Sponsors


$10,860 in prizes

First Place Project

Each member of the First Place team will receive an Xbox from Microsoft. Xbox will be shipped to address provided by each member of the winning team.

2nd Place Project

Each member of the 2nd place team will receive a Amazon Gift card worth $40.

Third Place Prize

Each member of the 3rd place team will receive an Amazon gift card worth $25

AI For Earth Challenge

Microsoft’s AI for Earth program is dedicated to supporting the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology towards tackling Earth’s most pressing environmental challenges. AI for Earth is sponsoring a special prize during Big Earth Hackathon: Wildland Fire Challenge for the best project using Azure to better monitor, model, and ultimately manage wildfires. The winner will receive:

$5,000 of Azure credits to continue to build their solution
Inclusion in the AI for Earth grantee program, including access to educational materials and technical support from Microsoft engineers and data scientists
Provided there is good project progress, the winner will receive:
- An invitation to attend the 2020 Microsoft AI for Good Summit

- The opportunity to feature their deliverables on the AI for Earth Grantee Gallery

Data Science Summer Continuation Prize

For the project identified as the best use of data science and well suited for continued work this summer, the Data Science Institute will provide a $1000 stipend to each team member (i.e., up to $4000 total for a team of four) to continue their hackathon project over the summer. The winning team will present their updated progress at a virtual symposium in September.

Devpost Achievements

Submitting to this hackathon could earn you:


Maria Cacho

Chris Field

Chris Field

Margot Gerritsen

Margot Gerritsen

Stace Maples

Stace Maples

Sandy Robertson

Sandy Robertson

Martin Von Raeafeld

Martin Von Raeafeld

David Shew

David Shew

Michael Wara

Michael Wara

Judging Criteria

  • Problem Definition
    How precise or relevant is this project to a real world problem or opportunity? How interesting is the problem being solved?
  • Creativity / Innovation
    This is the heart of a hackathon: a fun, dynamic environment where participants aren’t afraid to create projects that make you say “wow” and tell your friends/colleagues about it.
  • Impact and Project Accomplishment
    How revolutionary is the solution proposed by the project? Beauty is more than skin deep here: what has the team accomplished?
  • Robustness/Confidence
    How robust is the project result? Are the results generalizable for other cases/scenarios? Are there an biases inherent in the analysis/model/framework?
  • Project Presentation
    How compelling is the overall project presentation? Being able to pitch and present the problem is an important part of the hackathon: convincing the audience of the relevance of the project solution

Questions? Email the hackathon manager

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