Do you need fresh ideas and innovations, or do you have a problem that can be solved through the use of information technology? Organise a hackathon... In the last few years, this method is making its way ever more surely. Initially as a challenge, also as an entertainment, but more and more as the fastest way to find technological solutions in an increasing number of areas. Among the first to start organising such competitions in Bulgaria were Telerik and FMI, and from 2013 Bulgaria takes part in the largest technological hackathon in the world - NASA Space Apps Challenge. In Bulgaria there are already various kinds of hackathons, including architectural, automobile, musical and even sports ones.
What Is It
In English, from where this concept originates,
a hackathon is a collective noun from the words "hacker" and "marathon". The English meaning of the word "hack" is "to cut". At
the technology competition, one has to figuratively cut down the constraints
and go beyond them. A marathon requires speed. So, the hackathon is an event
that focuses on a task and the solution needs to be found quickly - usually in
Motivation and Passion
"Hackathons give teams the opportunity to work
hard within a very short time, and in the name of a certain cause to generate
ideas and make developments. They are a good option when there is a need of
digital capacity. IT specialists would only get involved if the hackathon is a
challenge for them. If they feel passionate about the event, they devote
themselves entirely," says Iva Gumnishka, founder of the social start-up
Human in the Loop.
Realization of Ideas
Hackathons are the beginning of great ideas. But the main problem is that after their end, the developments are not implemented in any way, as the future life of the projects remains only in the hands of their creators. Therefore, Iva Gumnishka's conclusion is that it is good to organise hackathons with the aim of solving specific problems of organisations, not simply for the fun of it. And if the teams offer really good solutions, the organisation should engage in supporting them financially and help for their realization.
The hackathon is a technological marathon and such events should be of a competitive nature, which serves as a motivation for participants to be quick and creative. The companies that provide the awards can get valuable ideas and innovations that can be further developed, and perhaps identify talented people whom they can invite to work for them. The teams, on the other hand, gain useful experience. The most valuable outcome, however, is when an idea born at a hackathon is realized afterwards. There are even businesses that were started during a hackathon. Sometimes, this kind of events maps out the development of a certain participant, Iva says. She gives as an example Jedi - a specialized electric stroller for children with neuromuscular disabilities, which was created during a hackathon, and later, its creators founded a start-up.
international network Techfugees organises a number of hackathons in Europe,
uniting the IT community for solving refugee issues. This experience inspired
Human in the Loop months ago to organise programmers, entrepreneurs, designers
and refugees to join forces for the creation of a platform or an application
that would benefit refugees and people seeking protection. Before the
hackathon, a special workshop was organized in which, by using the methods of
design thinking, the main challenges before the participants were
defined. The winning team proposed the idea of an application called
PathFinder, which serves as a compass for refugees in stormy seas while they
are looking for salvation. But the project, which was later realised
mainly thanks to its creator, is the site RefugeeOcean.com where everyone can ask
for or offer support, work, home, clothes. It is created by a Gambian refugee
who works as a programmer.
A Pill against the Routine
The hackathon is a modern tool that can be used in the technology era for various purposes - to solve technological and non-technological problems, to create new products and innovations, to facilitate the discovery of talented people, claims Svetla Simidchieva, founder of the technology start-up Maj.io. According to her, hackathons are attractive because they give you the opportunity to work hard on an interesting task. They are "a chewing gum for the brain" and an energy pill against the routine of everyday work. But they are also an opportunity for new professional contacts. They attract participants with their content. Hackathons can be a tool for popularizing a brand, as well as attracting people with similar values. Companies, municipalities, universities and institutions could organise such competitions for their own purposes.
What Happens with the Good
An application for phone fraud prevention
won the award for the most completed project in January's civil hackathon in
electronic management Sloth.Works Civic Hackathon. The application was
developed by three students from the 9th grade of the Technological School of
Electronic Systems at the Technical University of Sofia. In the Most Promising
Beginning category were awarded the OpenLex solution for the creation of a base
register with a consolidated version of legally-binding documents in a
machine-readable format and the CommercialLinks application for the
establishment of connections in the Commercial Register. OpenLex is a
truly ambitious start in solving a problem created by the fact that the state
does not provide a final consolidated version of every law after its successive
amendment. But in order for it to be realised, it needs serious funding.
The hackathons have an ever-wider practical
application. In the Netherlands, for example, farmers use this know-how to find
quick solutions and innovations that can ensure the competitiveness of their
production. Thus, through intelligent systems,
the agricultural sector also enters the era of Industry 4.0.