April 20, 2021, by Agnes

My First Hackathon

Right before Easter break, I found myself scrolling through the weekly Maths newsletter (procrastinating something very important, I’m sure). Some way down, a bright banner caught my eye: Athena Hackathon 2021

“Erm, not for me,” was the exact thought I had as I scrolled past it. All I knew about hackathons was that they involved coding of some description and I doubted my Matlab skills would be useful in any sort of “hacking”.

Soon after, I received a notification from Facebook messenger informing me that someone on my course was looking to assemble a team for the aforementioned Athena Hackathon. My desire to make friends and help another woman out took over and I decided to find out more details about the event. 

Turned out there was no entry fee, it came with a mountain of great webinars and workshops on a variety of topics and an emphasis on “no experience necessary”. Of course, the prizes were pretty amazing too, but I wasn’t getting my hopes up.

“I’m down! It sounds fun!” was my response in the group chat and so it began. 

This hackathon was specifically for women and non-binary people and dealt with the topic of Circular Economy. We managed to get together a team of 5 and started to discuss potential team names! We settled on Alge-bras: a pun of algebra (as we’re Maths students) and bras (as we’re women).

The week before the hackathon was filled with talks and workshops; anything from python 101 to gamification to what actually is the circular economy. The hackathon was scheduled as a 48-hour event over the weekend, but as the week progressed and we got closer to the hack, we still didn’t know what the actual task at hand was. We understood that it was something to do with developing software of some kind, but not quite what that involved.

We ended up entering the hackathon with a team of 3. We figured out, from the briefing video, that we need to create something which will contribute to the circular economy. All we knew was that, and the judging criteria: technical innovation, creativity, execution + design, commercial potential and a 5-minute video pitch.

We came up with a solid idea, smoothed out the details and spent the first few hours doing research and… sleeping. In the morning, we picked it back up and I was tasked with creating the pitch video. This, along with the prototype of our app, would be the main demonstration of our idea so I spend the entire day perfecting it. This meant that I didn’t write a single line of code and I wasn’t complaining.

In fact, it turned out that none of us really coded anything! My teammate, Abbie, used a prototyping tool that (after a small learning curve) allowed her to easily create a prototype of the app.

The reason why I’m writing this is because it was a big step out of my comfort zone. In fact, it was a bit of a shot in the dark – I had no idea what to expect! Nevertheless, it turned out to be a really cool experience and a lot of fun, not to mention an awesome thing to post about on my LinkedIn.

If you’d like to see the fruits of our 48-hour project, you can find it here: RedUse-by

As I’m writing this, the winners have not been announced yet – that’s going to be at the end of this week. And even though I know that our beginner project might not compare to some of the other projects submitted, I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved that I’m still secretly holding my fingers crossed. You never know!

Posted in Agnes