As a rule of thumb hackathons are always an excellent opportunity to learn new stuff, get out of your comfort zone, get hands-on with new technologies, meet awesome people with whom generating great ideas becomes so much fun!
We, at Pentalog, have plenty of experience organizing hackathons, but we have to admit that the latest hackathon we got involved in, made us work hard and accomplish quite a lot from the time we accepted to support BEST Chisinau and till the official event closing. The final moments of the hackathon, helped us get over the fact that we were exhausted (and believe us we weren’t the only ones!) and brought us the pride of having spread our values: to share the knowledge, to provide valuable content and contribute to the IT specialists’ growth.
Our biggest challenge was to provide valuable content. Because, believe me, it was not easy at all to find a challenging topic for 44 like-minded smart IT individuals. Initially we came up with a backlog of 4 topics, and thanks to the creativity of our mentors, one topic was worthy of BEST hackathon: Augmented reality. And since our mentors know quite well the importance of being well prepared, the next step was helping the participants get ready for the hackathon experience with a list of topics.
13 February , morning: organizers, sponsors and participants, all met up and the atmosphere was a very energizing mix of good mood, thrill and a get-great-things-done attitude.The organisers’ advice to the participants was that they should sleep well, but let’s be realistic: who can sleep before such event?!
BEST Hackathon kicked off with a presentation of what organizers expected participants to build: a product allowing real time crossword solving, using a given list of words and the camera. Performance and multi-platform were part of the goal.We counted: 11 teams and 6 mentors all attempting to solve one problem.
Surprise, confusion, happiness, astonishment can be read on participant’s faces as the teams began focusing. Soon they started with problem analysis and product backlog definition. Some teams were used to working together and in a short time assigned the responsibilities, and they began to code, code and code…and snack….and code….and get energized….and code….and have some laughs……and code. Anyone who was there can tell you that the enthusiasm was floating in the air late after midnight!
In case you never attended a hackathon, picture this: people with their noses buried in their laptops, sitting at tables covered with sheets of paper full of notes, with half-empty pizza boxes, with juice or energy drinks close at hand, and the testimony of the drinks that were (empty bottles), drinking coffee and summoning every ounce of motivation to keep on going.Sometimes desperation made its way to the participants as exhaustion built up and motivation diminished…and giving up seemed the right way to go. The good news is: no one managed to get to that point as, Pentalog’s mentors were there to inspire the participants and guide them back to a motivationg trajectory. Partly, I think the mentors had the most awesome task of all: as they were there all the time providing support to the teams, suggestions on how they can improve, how they can develop further and asked the right questions to help each team to find the right way.
By sunrise, one by one, organizers and mentors fell asleep, taking shifts in order to offer the right amount of support. However, our IT enthusiasts were still working on the product! Perhaps the few hours left till the final presentation were the strongest motivator of all.
With just 24 hours available to put together a product from scratch, you’d be surprised how much a team can accomplish: complete products, correct destinations, interesting approaches were presented during the stand-up session of the hackathon. All participants had a say and put an interesting spin on the topic.The winners were selected by the mentors who evaluated the teams based on:
- the final presentation,
- on the user experience and interface,
- the number of accomplished objectives for their product
- and the possibility to run the product on multi-platform environment.
I strongly believe that all of participants are winners: as they acquired practical skills, they gained technical proficiency at a much faster pace and they had the possibility to communicate and to make new connections. Yeah! It was one awesome experience which was by all means FUN! Don’t believe us? Check out the photo album or better yet: join our next hackathon!