Leeds Hack and Student Hack VI in Review

April was a bumper month for the North’s hacking scene. We had the pleasure of sponsoring the best in show prizes at both Leeds Hack and Student Hack VI.

Leeds Hack was our first ever hackathon outside of Manchester, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! Working with the wonderful HAC100 – who are responsible for organising some fantastic hack events in the North, including Hack Manchester – was a pleasure as always. We also had some of our own taking part, under the team name We Bribe Judges with Jelly Babies!

After the success of our Hacker Things branding at last year’s Hack Manchester (we’re still getting requests for caps!), we were excited to unveil our new theme and the great merchandise that goes with it. We’ve got some pretty big fans of The Incredibles, so we couldn’t resist tying in with this summer’s release of The Incredibles 2 with our theme. Behold, ‘Hacking is my super power’!

After setting up our merch stand and seeing all of the fresh-faced hackers arrive, it was time for head judge Craig to set out what needed to be done to win the coveted best in show prize. Having judged a number of hackathons over the years, Craig’s seen a lot, but the best thing about these events is that they never fail to surprise. One of the key things Craig looks for in a hack team is passion. Approaching a hack with enthusiasm is the best place to start. Beyond that, an original idea is essential. We want to see something we’ve never seen before. Last but not least is progression. In a short time frame, it’s hard to perfect a new idea, but if a team has developed their collective knowledge and come a long way, then that’s great to see!

With this advice on board, the teams spent most of the next two days implementing their best ideas. By Sunday afternoon, it was time for our favourite part of any hackathon – the presentations! We were inspired by some of the truly innovative ideas the teams came up with, and it wasn’t easy for Craig to make his final choice for the best in show winners. In the end, the Super Nintendo consoles went to MD Lab for their impressive virtual reality game.

We didn’t have long to get over the excitement before we were loading up the car again to get our hacking caps on for Student Hack VI. We had a great time as sponsors at Student Hack last year, so when the team approached us to get involved this year, we couldn’t say no!

Alongside our gold sponsorship responsibilities, Craig also delivered a workshop on problem solving. He encouraged students to think about what being a developer is really all about, and emphasised that when it comes to solving problems, it can often be more effective to focus on the ‘why’ over the ‘how’ and ‘what’.

Amongst all the swag and the pizza (and some pretty fabulous pittas!), we were happy to again see some great teamwork and new thinking. With presentations on a diverse set of hacks, from a personal trainer app to a karaoke game, the unenviable task of picking just one winning team again fell to Craig. After some deliberation, the prize went to Shapeshifter Invasion for their multi-player, turn-based game involving shapeshifting aliens. Top points for originality!

The reason we love sponsoring hackathons is because we get to see young people develop their ideas, learn something new, meet new people, and – above all – just have fun! It’s great to see and means that we’ll carry on sponsoring hack events in the future (and bringing our swag A-game!) If you haven’t already attended a hackathon, what are you waiting for?

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