Joining a hackathon for the first time

A hackathon is a cool event where geeks from around the world come over, settle for a day or two.. Then tadaaa they come out with a product idea! Seems cool ha? Let me join my 1st hackathon experience then :D

Recently, I have joined the JunctionX Exeter hackathon in the UK. Coming all the way from Turkey ( long journey 7 hours ). Was it worth it? to travel all of this distance to see geeks on their computers?? Well, it was more than the word “worth it”.

I just came to find about a hackathon hosted in UK a month before the event, and guess what? I already have a visa to UK so why not use it! I got a teammate from my workplace and we decided to go.

I just picked up the plane tickets for the event and started to read reddits and posts about what a hackathon could be? what shall be expected out of it? Most of the answers were “go prepared, be ready, have an idea in your mind before you join” … Well, I could not find out an idea. On the other hand, we are working in the software industry so I can say we have the toolset to implement the idea of someone we may team up with there — maybe.

After a long day of traveling between airports, buses and waiting… Finally, reached the city of Exeter in the south of England. The next day we joined the hackathon place at around 7 p.m, after a tour around the city and a “fish and chips” meal.

JunctionX Exeter 2020, taken by me

The organizers made the welcome speech introduced the hackathon tracks (Sustainability, transportation, mental health) and asked us to socialize and team up (3 up to 5 participants per team). Well, whoever we told we came the whole way from Turkey to participate, they have a SHOCK on their face “WHYY”, so it got more exciting !! We paid all that money, travel all that distance for what ( it seemed we were so dedicated ..;. maybe)

The cool thing was that most of the people there were university students who have bright minds!! Really, I have never met a university student in their 2nd or 1st year having knowledge about “KNN, SVM, regression … bla bla bla” and how it fits in sustainability issues to track x y z of something! Most of the junior university students -including me- I have met in my life was into how to have fun! party? try this restaurant? try that game. People there were aware of problems! and they were thinking about solutions!! ah common I was happy I passed calculus-I, II.

Another cool thing was, I announced we came without an idea, so people who already have their teams settled, tried seriously to think an idea for us to work on!! I really remember a guy telling me “I have an idea it may work for you if you like you can work on it” ( I was what how!! That is so nice community).

The hackathon started, we (5 participants in our team; 2 software devs, a graphic designer, a business dev, and an electrical eng. student) shot our shot and open laptops and start to hack something related to sustainability! 12 hours later we found out there is no way this project could be done. Not enough data to train an ML model. Also, 2 of our team members have to leave for special reasons, so we were 3. All dreams - I wasn't that dreamy-, all travel costs everything starts to Fade away…

We have to think about an alternative idea, and how can I think while enjoying the food :)). We came up with another idea that was inspired by the environment there itself. Something simple, it was that your laptop will record video segments of your face while you are working and analyze it with “Emotion detection” algorithms then report it and send it as an email to your psychiatrist or dr or your neighborhood pizza hut? :D. The two software devs. developed the application, the graphic designer prepared our presentation slides.

56 hours later, time was up. We have to submit our presentations and demo. Presentations were 3 mins pitches + 2 mins questions; so in total 5 mins. The grading policy was distributed on the project idea, demo, and pitch. Qualification was on two steps, first was the selection best project in each track of the mentioned 3 tracks; The points were given by the other teams at this step. Then the second step, the qualified 3 teams were judged by University juries for the best project.

As a conclusion, for us the outcomes from the hackathon were not technical at all. It was more cultural and human interaction outcomes. If you are reading this right now, go find out hackathons and join them, a lot of outcomes are there. Maybe you can run a startup based on something you develop there. I have met people who already got the chance to run a company out of a hackathon project !. And remember, do not eat a lot like I have done so you won’t feel sleepy.

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I write about ethical concerns, about humanity from different perspectives in this chaotic world

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Mohammad Al-hd

Mohammad Al-hd

I write about ethical concerns, about humanity from different perspectives in this chaotic world

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