Dev Blog, Tom Walsh: At Hack 2015

During Manchester Science Festival I volunteered to help out as a steward at Hack Manchester 2015 and as a mentor at Hack Manchester Junior, which took place on the two following weekdays after the weekend of code-based carnage – both sponsored by our sister company, Tech Angels.

Firstly, some background to Hack Manchester. In essence, the event is a 24 hour coding competition where teams of up to four choose a challenge to take on. They think up an idea based around one of the challenges and implement it whatever way they can. Sponsors who provided the challenges for teams to take on included Rise, Clockwork, The Lad Bible, Autodesk, rentalcars.com and AutoTrader.

As ever, Hack Manchester 2015 took place at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry’s entire second floor. Upon arrival I was greeted by free-to-play retro arcade machines ranging from Pac-Man to Donkey Kong. They were awesome, and I relished the opportunity to play them when I had a spare moment from handing out free t-shirts and cans of energy drink to hackers
Other perks laid on by the organisers included a professional barista who was serving up some excellent coffee, a fantastic buffet of food and bean bags.

Many, many bean bags.

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Winners of each challenge were decided by a panel of judges, including Web Apps Chief Exec. Craig Dean. Hacks from the weekend that were personal favourites of mine include Voluntinder- a hybrid combining the dating app Tinder with volunteering opportunities, where users swipe left or right on volunteering experiences local to them based on their preference. I thought it was a brilliantly simple and quirky way of engaging people in voluntary work in their local community.

Another favourite was GAWI, which stands for Get Away With It. This idea completely turned AutoTrader’s challenge on its head. The challenge involved using the Greater Manchester Police data of crimes and their locations. GAWI used this data to provide useful information to criminals in the Manchester area to optimise their crime sprees by analysing how likely they are to be arrested for a specific crime in a specific area, as well as displaying the weather and a Twitter feed, or ‘Fuzz Feed’, for the Greater Manchester Police twitter account in order to help criminals plan their activities. This idea was outrageous, yet so devilishly ingenious that it stood out from the crowd, and the team were rewarded for their efforts as AutoTrader declared the team (GoodLuckToYou) the winners of the challenge.

There were many Webbies and ex-Webbies making an appearance over the weekend, with a Dev team, an ex-Webbie team and a Placement Student team all taking part, creating cool and innovative ideas, drinking energy drinks, wearing matching t-shirts and just generally having a blast. Great fun had by all.

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Web Apps team member Brodie rocking his company t-shirt.

Following the weekend came the first ever Hack Manchester Junior, taking place in the same venue and with the same premise as the grown-up version. However, aimed at kids aged 17 and under, the level of talent on show almost paralleled that of the main event. Some exceptional ideas, mixed with boundless enthusiasm made for a fantastic showcase of the future of software developers in Manchester, a spectacle that kept Craig’s jaw on the floor from Monday morning until Tuesday evening. Simply epic.

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Me, on mentor duty. 

It was a pleasure to be able to mentor and provide technical help for the young, enthusiastic developers that showed up, many of which showed their dedication by working through the night in order to see their ideas come to fruition before the award ceremony on Tuesday evening.