Phew! The Hacker Exchange team is tired this week after running a 48-hour online hackathon. Victorian international students participated in Hack Your Future as part of the Future Founders Festival. No big deal, you reckon? Online hackathons are less work than F2F hackathons, you scoff? That’s where you’re wrong. Here’s how a HEX hackathon is different — and why we’ve earned some hardcore Netflix this week…
At HEX, we bang on about providing real world learning and innovation through immersive experiences. And hackathons should be no different. Face-to-face hackathons are totally immersive, but it’s easy to lose touch with reality if tech is the sole focus.
A tale of two trash cans…In other hackathons, I’ve seen a robot that sorts rubbish using Machine Learning and another rubbish bin (there’s a theme here) that shouts abuse at the unsuspecting user. The first example failed to win over the judges because it was “too expensive”, and the second won a prize by popular vote. But which one is more useful in reality? The answer is neither — unless it solves a real problem and comes with a plan for how to do it.
HEX hackathons ask more than just building something complicated or funny. Our projects are rooted in reality, because at the end of the day, we love seeing hexies actually launch businesses. So in 48 hours, the participants of Hack Your Future had to ideate, validate, prototype and pitch their projects, based on a solid business model with a roadmap for achieving it. That’s A LOT to do in 48 hours!
Lucky for us, we’ve got some ripper friends…
When you ask 212 students to spend 48 hours straight working on a project — remotely, with people they didn’t know before — you’ve got to bring the 24-hour cheer squad. Our team has a strategic mix of Gen Z night-owls and parents who get up at 4:30am. So we can cover 20 hours of programming and support in-house. Then we rely on our incredible mentors in other time zones — like lean startup coach Ryan MacCarrigan in Silicon Valley — to get us through the wee hours of the night.
So, how did we end up with 15,600 message on Slack in just 48 hours? And when did anyone find the time to send them, given the 20 hours of workshops and info sessions? Let’s just say we’ve become really good at building community culture, really quickly. When you’re strapped for time, it’s easy to be lured into jumping straight into “the work”. But when you’re designing a program with built-in sleep deprivation, it’s a great idea to set your teams up for conflict and resolution in advance.
We ALWAYS spend a fair whack of time on culture building and getting to know each other. As any great salesperson knows, you can’t influence someone if you don’t know what’s already influencing them! And teammates need to be able to influence each other when the $#!* hits the fan.
And of course, never underestimate meme therapy.
Drum roll please… The winner of Hack Your Future is… Our Pantry! These five superstars powered through the weekend, from opposite sides of the world (with team members in Australia and the USA). Check out their pitch video below (YUM!).
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