Durham’s First Hackathon

University seems to be so much more fun than when I was there.  Perhaps it was the subject that I did or perhaps it’s all the cool stuff they get to play with now.  The students do work hard though.  Again, a lot more than when I was there.  If I remember rightly, my years at University consisted of beer, cheese and onion stotties and snooker.  (If you don’t know what a stottie is then try here.)

My colleagues and I across the Council and partner organisations have been involved in supporting a hackathon with Durham University over the weekend.  It was our first time and has given us plenty to think about for the second event.  This should definitely be part of our annual calendar.

Having Major League Hacking (MLH) and GitHub on board really made a difference.  Having a set of rules and a framework in which to operate meant that everyone knew what to do. They really know how to get the students together with a range of activities, games and learning sessions.

I felt a bit out of place at first. I am a bit too vintage these days to hang around with teenagers and twenty somethings, but everyone was very welcoming and there was a great atmosphere throughout.  I did what I do best and talked to people about their ideas and whether they were happy with the data we were providing.  Even as the hooter went off to get the hack underway there were some great ideas emerging.

We had themed the event around ‘Improving the economic prosperity of Durham’ with some suggestions around:

  • Maximising occupancy, hotel rooms, accommodation, business premises.
  • Increasing business, better footfall, increased retention, greater spend.
  • Using our culture, the Cathedral, the Castle, Lumiere and staying safe.

One team talked about using the images from the traffic management cameras to develop a tool to find anything you were looking for in the city.  That could be a game or a useful application.  Another told me about their thoughts to create an app that would advise you of the best way to get home, sticking to safe and well lit routes.  This would be an absolute shoe-in for us.  A third had plans to rate cycle routes, provide the users with information about amenities along the route and show alternative public transport provision.  This is something that I had been talking about with our Head of Transport only a week ago.

And this was in the first ten minutes.

A lot of thought had gone into the whole event by everyone involved.  It is great to have one under our belts.  Roll on #DurHack 2018.