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KLA Ann Arbor Hackathon Tackles Digital Transformation

Nov 2, 2022 3 min read

Keeping with KLA’s vision of turning ideas into possibilities by creating transformative solutions, 75 employees in Ann Arbor, Michigan brainstormed and collaborated at the site’s first hackathon themed around digital transformation – with the winning team actually building and demonstrating an invention.

View a video with highlights from the Ann Arbor hackathon here.

During the 36-hour event, 16 cross-functional teams generated ideas ranging from automating, consolidating and standardizing tools and processes to new systems that help employees do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

“We wanted to get creative juices flowing in a fun and engaging way. Unusual, unexpected and innovative ideas emerged that can potentially impact the way we work and contribute to KLA’s success.”

Brian Haas, vice president, central engineering, KLA

First place team members Suvadip Mukherjee, Rohan Patni and Zhihao Zhang designed and built a stylus employees can use on laptop screens to annotate with confidence during Zoom meetings.

Rohan and Zhihao showed on a large screen what often goes wrong when employees try to write or draw something very simple such as the letters K, L, and A using existing pens on laptop screens.

After watching his teammates struggle to write KLA with pens and fingers, Suvadip showed the hackathon audience their invention: a new stylus called KLA Touch.

“My colleagues were using two types of pens to draw, and these didn’t work very well,” Suvadip explained. “The third way – using your finger – does sort of work, but do we really want to annotate like that in the 21st century? That’s why we invented and built this new stylus during the hackathon.” 

Other Winning Ideas

Second place went to a team whose idea was to convert a wafer image to a 3D model and visualize it as a terrain showing subtle details of image data.

Earning third place was an idea for an end-to-end data management solution for machine learning development.

“As we continue to grow the site and attract talent to Ann Arbor, the hackathon was a great way to build cross-functional ties across our business groups and give employees a creative outlet. Ideas from the event have the potential to feed new innovation into our business.”

John McLaughlin, global environmental, social and governance leader and Ann Arbor site lead

Aarti Patel, senior spares planner who joined KLA in 2021, says, “I experienced firsthand how KLA employees share knowledge. The hackathon was an opportunity to get into a creative mindset and develop skills that I can take back to my role and identify opportunities for improvement.”

Autumn Haffner, spares planner who has worked at KLA less than three months, adds, “I learned a lot from my team members and saw the hackathon as a unique opportunity to push outside my comfort zone and challenge my creativity and teamwork skills. It was also an opportunity to meet other people outside my team and work in a collaborative environment on something new.” ​​​​​​

Not a Michiganian? Learn more about “Silicon Valley Career – Great Lakes Style,” and check out the opportunities available in Ann Arbor on our careers page.

Check out our coverage of KLA Israel’s sustainability-themed hackathon.

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