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Some people use a long flight to try to get a little work done in between naps. This week, about 100 business leaders and creative thinkers will use an 11-hour transatlantic flight to try to solve some of the biggest problems facing the tech industry.
The program, called “UnGrounded,” is an initiative from British Airways that will launch with a Tuesday flight from Silicon Valley to London.
William “Whurley” Hurley of Austin’s Chaotic Moon Studios will be among the group of passengers that includes Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and others from Google, the Clinton Global Initiative and NASA.
The passengers will split into teams to tackle specific areas, put together their solutions and present them at the London DNA (Decide Now Act) Summit. The findings will also be presented to the secretary general of the ITU, which is the United Nations’ agency for information and communication technologies.
Hurley said the mid-air event, which he describes as a hackathon minus distractions, will bring together some heavy thinkers in an opportunity to create concrete solutions for problems like getting more women into early STEM education programs and bringing technology opportunities to emerging economies.
“We’ve got a lot of great, amazing people on the flight,” Hurley said, “to be able to do it on a global scale and present it to these leaders is an amazing opportunity. We’re working on problems that are very paramount to all our futures. The overall problem is areas without enough talent that have opportunities and areas where they have opportunities, but no talent.”
Two teams for UnGrounded have been announced on the website for the initiative. Hurley’s team is called “Altitude” and will specifically address the challenge of helping more women get into the tech industry. Another announced set of participants, “Team Ground Control” will tackle STEM issues in emerging economies.
While many of the passengers will be from Silicon Valley, Hurley said he plans to bring some of Austin’s culture with him on the flight.
“I view Austin as one of the leaders in involving women in tech,” he said. “With Girlstart, women software development groups and gaming groups, I feel like in our culture we’re already very actively working to address this. I think I’ll be able to bring a lot of ideas from our community to this global community.”
In addition to the invited passengers, the website Mashable held a contest for innovative ideas that earned 10 of its readers spots on the flight as well.