FORT GORDON, Georgia -- In a scenario that could be reminiscent of a summer blockbuster script where the world may never know how close it was to the unleashing of a zombie apocalypse: were it not for the brave men and women of the 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion rising to the challenge of the 2015 Battalion Hacka-thon, our nation's elite forces would not have been able to enter the top secret facility with spoofed credentials to secure the transformative bio-agent stored within.

The two-day simulated challenge, which started Dec. 3, was held at the Gordon Club and began with a crash-course in Arduino (micro-controller) programming taught by Chief Warrant Officer Two Vincent Ingallinera. Soldiers and civilians from the battalion, many of whom had never seen or heard of an Arduino before, quickly learned how to combine simple code and electronic components together in a variety of small projects.

Hackathon combines the words hack and marathon, where the word hack refers to exploratory programming - not the other meaning of computer crime. The idea behind the event was to develop informal, collaborative, trial-and-error problem solving.

The second day kicked off with a novel challenge: to create a prototype device that could read the data from a Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, badge and then retransmit this data to unlock a door. RFID is commonly used technology for tracking items, such as for inventory control, and is also used in badges to allow controlled access. Armed with only their ingenuity, an internet-connected laptop and less than $100 worth of components, the team from Charlie Company became the first of several to complete the challenge, earning them the prestigious, 3-D-printed, Hackathon trophy.

The battalion hosts events such as these on a quarterly basis as a way to expand technical skills, as well as the mental agility and confidence needed to tackle novel problems with minimal guidance.