When we realised noone organised a hackathon for university students, we decided to make it happen! Yes, as far as we know, it was the first hackathon that organised in Turkey for university students :) I will share some information about the organisation ;)
Before you read, this was posted on linkedin before but I believe resharing here doesn't harm anyone :)
Believe me it is not easy to organise a hackathon, you should think about all the details of the organisation and you should work with an amazing team. In 2014 we organised a big data hackathon with sponsorship of AWS and collaboration of Bilkent Cyberpark.
Hackathon is not a talent hunt event nor a brand recognition event, it is our social responsibility project to university students.
Subject of the hackathon was big data because there were no event about big data and university students were too excited about the big data. We decided to arrange hackathon on December 2013 and we decided to make it on February 2014! We were so excited since students will have a chance to meet with real data. We were not sure if the time is enough to arrange a hackathon in two months but I think we were brave enough to accept this challenge. But to be honest, it was our company's first public organization.
We made couple of meetings and we decided to divide the hackathon into two categories:
- Code Challenge: Answer big data problems in 24 hours with using AWS. Each question has different points according to difficulty and for every correct answer has different points.
Project Challenge: Create a big data project and build it with using project development canvas. Each project will be presented to the jury and jury will point the projects. So naturally we doubled every effort in our first hackathon :)
Our capacity was 100 before project challenge, than increased to 250
- We planned to work with 4 mentors, than increased to 12
- We planned to buy 300 sandwiches, than increased to 700
- We planned to give one MacBook Pro, one MacBook Air and iPad Air for the prize, and for project challenge 6000 $ needed for the prize
- There were no stationer budget before project challenge
- There were no need to have a jury before project challenge
- And we needed more powerful announcement source
- You see, we had lots of works to do. Let's detail all of them
I think the most important part of the hackathon is the organization team.
- Joker: Joker is the key role of the organization, joker is the person who thinks all the details, knows every part of the hackathon and has strong relationship with all the stakeholders. Joker is also the interface of the company with the organziation team. The joker should also plan, monitor and notify team immediately about the plan changes. The joker should decide fast and take responsibilities. It is amazing if you have more than one joker in your team. Selecting and communicating with the jury is also one of the duty of the joker. Yes, joker has a lot of things to do for the success of the organization including cleaning the tables :)
- Mentor team: Mentors have key role during the hackathon. When participants have questions, mentors should answer. When participants are getting hungry, mentors should bring something to eat. When it is cold or hot, mentors should take care of the room temperature. During the event, when you look around, you should see at least one mentor near you immediately.
- Technical Team: If you are planning to make a code challenge like us, you need an amazing technical team. This team is responsible for creating questions and answer them, collect data, creating snapshot of the environment and documentation. Your team should have strong technical and analytic knowledge. And during the hackathon, it is possible some participants can reclaim about some questions and this team should check the questions and discuss with the participants.
- Design Team: If you wanna attract students with your flyers, you need to have a talented designer. Flyers, webpage and social media campaigns are very important for reaching as much as possible students. Here you can see our amazing hackathon logo!
If you want more people to attend your hackathon you have to organise event with powerful brands and you have to find awesome sponsors to your event. So we started to talk with the companies which have intrest in becoming a sponsor to our event and related to big data. Since T2 Yazilim is the big data partner of AWS, we talked to them and they supported us since the beginning till the end. Than we started to talk with BYEGM and Solveka about the sponsorship and they also supported us from the beginning.
We started to think about the prizes and we decided to give books to the students and asked O'Reilly about the books and they sent us a lot of books about big data! And Coca Cola became our drinking sponsor! Everything was perfect but if your hackathon vision and the event was not good enough, you cannot find sponsors easily. And of course, we decided to make the event with under business partnership of Bilkent Cyberpark, where T2 is located.
As T2 Yazılım, we never see our sponsors as a resource, we see them as a partner and I believe that's why all of our events are so successful! They increased the brand value dramatically.
Since we made two challenges at the same time, we needed two different places. Since we wanted to increase the hackathon spirit with both attendees, each places should be close. With Bilkent Cyberpark we designed two different places:
- Project Challenge Area: We put 15 big circle tables and 5 big rectangle tables to Cyberplaza's cafeteria in the terrace. We strengthen the internet infrastructure in the cafeteria and put extra extension lean to the cafeteria, so each attendees had AC and WiFi. Tables and chairs are quite comfortable but we didn't create any sleeping area. We suggested attendees to bring their sleeping bags if they want. Below you can see some pictures from the area.
- Code Challenge Area: We put 15 rectangle tables to Dr Fikret Yücel Conference Saloon in the same building. Saloon was so quiet and we tried to project challenge attendees to stay in their area and didn't make any noise in the code challenge area. So each mentor visited both areas and we almost doubled our mentor workforce when needed.
Food Food Food
Our event capacity was 250 students, there were 5 food service and one soup service. For all food service hour, we ordered 250 sandwiches! In total we served 1250 sandwiches, 600 bottles of Coca Cola and in the evening 7/24 hot tea/coffee and cookie served. So nobody got hungry during the event but to be honest, nobody found enough time to think about the foods :)
Thanks to our designer team, we announced our event via our webpage, Twitter and Facebook page. In addition we started to get in touch with universities, student clubs and media and in the first day 82 students applied for the event, which was too much over our expectations. A lot of great articles are published about our hackathon just after announcement. We used Eventbrite for the registration, it is so easy to use both for registration and management. I personally strongly recommend you to use Eventbrite in your events.
Don't forget to create a good FAQ page! Attendees will ask you millions of questions, when you answer any of question, update your FAQ page immediately! We used both our webpage and Eventbrite's FAQ. Also we added FAQ section to our flyers.
Let the game begin!
I was so excited when students entered from the event door and visited the registration desk! In the end, officially, our first public event as a company was started after two months of effort.
We made a quick Scrum meeting just before the event start and welcome keynote and trainings followed! As organization team, we focused on motivating students and helping their technical questions. In the project challenge, we work so hard to making the ideas mature and extraordinary. I remember sometimes we served coffee to the students to keep them awake.
During the event, an amazing atmosphere environment forms and everybody becomes so close to each others. We encouraged everybody to meet new people and working together in harmony. Even though you were out of sleep and tired, you can easily find energy to smile and be awesome (Take a look Baris and Burak above)!
I strongly recommend you as a mentor to help as many as attandees and be their real friends. I made a lot of friends and still talk to them frequently! Your ideas and directions help them too much and your support motivates them dramatically. I think if you don't create an atmosphere like this, your hackathon will be too weak. Let them enjoy the event and make them too feel special, that's what we tried to do!
As I mentioned, we made two challenges at the same time. Results of the code challenge was calculated by our technical team just after the challenge finished.
In the project challenge jury scored all groups and the results are announced at the same time! And here are the happy faces after 48 hours of marathon!
I think the most surprising result of the hackathon was the first three attendees didn't know anything big-data before the hackathon! They attended the hackathon trainings and worked hard during the hackathon and won their amazing prizes! Also the fourth of the hackathon, Sercan, is a junior CS student from ODTU didn't know anything about Java nor big-data but he solved 7 of 9 questions! That shows our training and mentor quality in the hackathon was very good because of our talented mentor team.
I made such good friends from this first hackathon like Zafer, Barış, Utku, Alper and many more! Thank guys being part of it!