How students decided to hackathon and what came of it
Hello! My name is Artyom and I (besides being a 2nd year student of software engineering) are the head of the scientific community of our department at the university. From the very beginning of its existence, our community has set itself the goal of promoting science, interest in programming and related activities, both among university students and among other interested people.
Why all this?
What is the way to ignite interest in programming among those who are only thinking of becoming a future programmer, and also give an opportunity to realize their potential, learn something new to those who already know how to write “Hello world!”? Answer – Hackathon.
Earlier, our community organized a hackathon among the students of the department (I cannot describe it, because at that time
was lazy was not the leader of the community), but this time we decided to arrange this event for schoolchildren of grades 9-11 in our region. Speaking of those who need help to ignite the spark of interest in IT – this turned out to be our audience.
How it all began
Despite the fact that we had been hatching the idea of holding a second hackathon for a long time, it was the department that offered us to hold a hackathon for schoolchildren. Of course, we agreed, though it turned out very quickly that the department did not have any plan and we would have to invent it ourselves. Accordingly, we set to work.
Having set a deadline by which we must have all the materials necessary for the event, as well as the deadlines for registration and the hackathon itself, we came to the department with the most important thing – “Give me money!”. Unfortunately, the money is not for us, but as a prize fund for the participants, because you need to somehow motivate the guys to take part. Gotta give credit and say thank you very much department that we were allocated money, and besides, for the certificate of the winner in this event, they promised to give applicants additional points when entering our university.
However, the most difficult was ahead: how to find participants? Here we made one of the main mistakes. Our great (and, in fact, only) hope was the Ministry of Education. Having sent them a letter on behalf of the university with a request to disseminate information about the event among schoolchildren, we went about our business.
Looking ahead, I’ll say that, apparently, no one has read this letter, which personally spoiled my mood very much. How did we get it? The fact is that we created a website with a registration form, and every day we looked sadder and sadder at the number of applications – 0. Then, in a hurry, we found another way out – to go through the schools on our own. Fortunately, I studied at a technical lyceum, it was logical to think that it was there that the most future programmers should be looked for, that’s why I went there. Other schools did not let us in, under various pretexts of covid, “you will mine us”, “we don’t know you”, etc.
After I heroically skipped classes and lured students from my school to our event with a prize fund, we finally began to receive applications. Surprisingly, there were few comic applications and 99% of those who applied did contact us and confirmed their participation.
It is worth mentioning that at the registration stage, participants have already chosen a case that they will perform. With the help of the department and the Astrakhan IT company, we came up with two cases.
Coming up with cases, the requirements were: the ability to complete a case using various tools, the relative simplicity of the task.
Reade set Go!
We planned the start of the hackathon quite clearly, realizing that our audience would hardly be familiar with the concept of the hackathon. The output is a training webinar.
So, having gathered everyone who confirmed participation in our discord channel, we quickly but clearly told what a hackathon is, cases, what is required of them, how to seek help, etc. Surprisingly, the guys even asked the right questions, namely:
Who will evaluate our work?
How will the work be evaluated?
How much money can I grab if I win?
In general, if it were not for the fact that at the end of the webinar we were informed that the discord did not show our presentation, then we can say that everything went perfectly.
After that, the hackathon officially began. We gave the guys a week to complete the cases, and also answered questions and helped during development. I’ll immediately note our other mistake, we didn’t include it in the hackathon plan checkpoints. On full-time defense, we realized how much this affected performance, for example, many made the same mistake – first the design, the implementation of some additional features, and then the main functionality. Having spent at least one checkpoint, it was possible to massively eliminate this error.
How did my defense day start? From the fact that I sat 3 hours before the start in GIMP and drew diplomas for the winners myself, since we simply forgot to draw them, this is what is called “Good morning”.
Okay, having printed out diplomas, I run to the audience and understand that we did not warn the guys that we need to bring flash drives with projects and a presentation. Fortunately, most of the guys thought of doing this.
In total we had 20 participants, 3 teams. It was nice to see that the auditorium was almost completely filled.
However, things could not go well. You see, those teachers and experts who were supposed to be part of the hackathon jury did not find time for us (and we, in turn, having not controlled this process, came to our senses the day before the full-time defense). Thus, the jury included: me and the dean. dream team.
Nevertheless, despite all this, the guys successfully defended their projects and received long-awaited prizes for prizes.
Probably the most important thing that can be learned from holding such events is the mistakes we have made in order to prevent such mistakes from happening again. So, our main mistakes:
The hope that someone else would find us participants was worth taking matters into our own hands right away and knocking on all the schools before registration even started.
The absence of checkpoints and, as a result, late acquaintance with what projects the guys have in their hands.
Poor communication with the experts who were supposed to be on the jury.
Poorly established communication with the participants, many did not understand what we required to receive as a result of the development and what we would put points for.
Too much time was taken to plan the event, which resulted in the fact that in the end, many of the team lost their enthusiasm and desire to bring the work on the hackathon to the ideal.
Even considering the number of mistakes made, I am extremely glad that we brought this matter to the end, and I really hope that we were able to give an impetus to the guys in their learning of programming. I am sure that the experience of organizing such events has improved my skills of working in teams and leading a team.
Also, I want to express my deep gratitude to all members of our scientific community: Alina Aituganova, Zagir Selimov, Cole Milen, Alyon Michurin and Alexei Rodyagin.