Hack Manchester – Top 10 for 2017

Jack Simpson

Head of Marketing and Communications

Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.

It’s Tuesday, and I’m still tired.

Though not for the reason you’re probably thinking. I didn’t spend my weekend partying, but in fact in the company of our favourite people, the wonderful Greater Manchester tech community; at our favourite place, the Museum of Science and Industry; attending our favourite event, Hack Manchester, the 25-hour coding competition that takes place as part of the Manchester Science Festival.

If you know me well, you’ll know that I have a distaste for trendy ‘listicles’ and churned out SEO-friendly website content, although I’ve written several listicles on this very site in the past. However, when confronted with a week like the one just past, there’s just so much to say.

So, tongue placed firmly in cheek, I hereby present our top 10 moments of Hack Manchester ’17.

10. The Great Meme-off 2017

What’s the old saying? If you sit a bunch of software devs in a room together, eventually they will start generating memes.

Without wanting to steer into ‘how do you do, fellow kids’ territory, I will just say that the official Hack Manchester Slack channel started frantically lighting up my phone at about 3am. Oh no, thought I, from the relative comfort of my bed. What could it be? Fire, flooding, or worse – wi-fi outage?!

Nope, just a series of increasingly surrealistic memes born in the sleep-deprived minds of a roomful of engineers. Thanks, table 36.

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9. Spooky Hack: In Which a Dragon Came to MOSI

The entertainment at the famously entertaining awards show usually comes in the shape of a professional comedian such as Bethany Black, or last year’s inventor of the best team name award, @TheHodge, also known as Dom Hodgson.

This year, Hack went down a different route with a rapper – more on this later – and a troupe of legitimately disturbing spooks including what was presumably a killer clown, a giant zombie doll, and a witch who was leading a 12-foot tall dragon around the MOSI event space. The latter nearly knocked me out with a wayward swipe of its tail while I was foolishly trying to film it…

The creepy cohort made it an awards show with a unique twist, and I’m glad I got to take part, although my subconscious might be less pleased.

8. And Nao for Something Completely Different

Forgive the weak pun. I did already say I was tired.

Veteran hi-vis volunteer, AKA HVV, and all-round nice guy Ben had us all in fits of laughter in the judges’ green room at Hack Junior with his Nao Robot, which among other things, managed to sit down, stand up, and dance unassisted. It (she?) even gave a shout out to our favourite logistical mastermind, Claire.

7. Perseverance Prevails, Part I – Batman

Lee Englestone is a Hack Manchester veteran who has been, I believe, to every single Hack Manchester.

This year (his sixth!) he was going it alone under the pseudonym ‘Batman’, and blew us away with a clever little app called On Way Home, which sends automated text updates to your friends and loved ones when driving home – an app that solves a real problem and could potentially save some lives!

It’s great to see a familiar face doing well. Hats off to you, Lee!

6. Jon, the Science Rapper

Yes, as mentioned above, there was a rapper. Not just any rapper either, but the best kind – a science rapper.

Jon Chase tours schools, universities, museums and libraries, and has in the past worked for the BBC, Channel 4 and NASA, pioneering a new way of getting people involved in STEM. This year, he was resident science rapper for the Manchester Science Festival, and provided entertainment throughout the festival.

What exactly does science rapping involve, I hear you ask? In this case at least, it involved an awesome Doctor Who themed track. A full recording of Jon’s performance can be found in the awards show video, which can be found here.

5. Future CTOs Identified

Hack Junior takes place at the start of the week on Monday and Tuesday, and features coders aged under 18 from all backgrounds that take part in a slightly less nocturnal hackathon.

One thing we always love to see is the level of maturity brought to the junior event. This year, we saw some excellent project management and logistical skills, including one team who put a scrum board together to help them prioritise and work together more efficiently.

4. Old Friends

One of the things that really struck me this year was how many people I knew. As we’re a small travel software company in Oldham, I’m always surprised to see how many devs I meet who know who we are, or have worked with us in the past. At Hack Manchester 2017, there seemed to be a current or former Webbie everywhere I looked.

It’s great catching up with old friends and seeing them continuing to get actively involved with our fantastic community.

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A failed selfie with Si Levy, recently returned from travelling in Asia and Australia

3. New Friends

I always find myself sat at the awards show watching the volunteers, organisers and sponsors continuing to do their bit even during the celebrations, and feeling very proud to have had the opportunity to call myself their colleague, if only for a weekend!

There’s always a great sense of shared purpose at Hack amongst the team that facilitates the events, but there seemed to be an even greater feeling of cohesion this year. A shout out is due to the wonderful efforts of our fellow sponsors, Texecom, Dunnhumby and Ombudsman Digital, who were all new for this year. The team representing the latter managed to put in an all-nighter during the weekend event.

It was a pleasure to meet you all, and we loved seeing what your challenges inspired!

2. Junior to Senior

There are certain stories that come out during Hack that give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

One of our favourites this year has to be hearing about Aaron, who took part in Hack Manchester Junior last year. For 2017, Aaron returned as a mentor to the Junior event, later taking part in the weekend Hack Manchester for the first time!

Seeing the community self-perpetuating like this is so rewarding and it reminds you exactly why you get involved.

1. Perseverance Prevails, Part II – Team Sesh

Mel from Team Sesh, for one reason or another, found herself the last person standing in her team with their hack unfinished.

Thanks to help from the wizards on the Zuhlke mentoring squad, Mel managed to power through the setback and ended up putting together an (extremely annoying) complaints system for the Ombudsman Digital challenge!

The mentors were so impressed with her efforts and sticking power that they awarded her the Mentor’s Choice Award! Congrats Mel!

A bonus mention must go out to Code Computerlove team Sax Turtles, with their Best-in-Show winning effort, Complaint Quest! Their old school RPG-style complaints system was a really great-looking hack, and I’ve been telling anyone who will listen to me back at the office about it.

So, there it is for another year. We never chill for too long though – next up we’ve got Great Uni Hack later this month, where we’re gold sponsors. Watch this space for details of our challenge, and for Chief Exec. Craig Dean taking part in the judging panel for the top prize!