The delaware hackathon – 24 hours of co-creation and innovation

Mar 20, 2019

At delaware, we love co-creating with customers and designing innovative solutions to their challenges. That’s also why we organized the first delaware hackathon on Thursday, February 28 and Friday, March 1: to give students the opportunity to work on real-life cases and collaborate with our experts and customers. In this blog, we’re looking back on a successful first edition and we’re sharing what both students and customers have to say about our hackathon.

The delaware hack-a-what?

The delaware hackathon is a two-day software development event, where we challenge (soon-to-be) programmers to build original solutions for our customers. The challenges are real-life issues that our customers struggle with, selected from the DEL20 – our ecosystem of innovation. After an intense few hours of hacking, each team gets the chance to pitch its solution to a judging panel. In this case, the jury consisted of delaware experts and the customer from that particular challenge.

So who’s crazy enough about code to participate in a 24-hour hacking marathon? Many of you, it seems. After months of planning, the hackathon crew was ready to welcome no less than 50 tech-savvy students. We even had a team from delaware UK joining us! With a venue as charming as Whale in Drongen, it didn’t take long for everyone to settle down into their new environment. Under the approving eye of an impressive whale skeleton, all contestants received detailed information on the challenges they were about to tackle.

Ready for the challenge?

Hacking time started at 22:30 sharp, Thursday night. In teams of 2 to 4, contestants tried to find a solution to real-life company challenges. Some customers wanted to improve their hiring processes, while others were looking into using artificial intelligence to gain insights into their pricing. Luckily, the delaware coaches were there to help narrow down what the core features of each solution should be.

In the end, it all came down to the pitching moment on Friday evening, when all of the hackers’ hard work and effort was boiled down to a two-minute presentation. And yes – since we were running a 24-hour hackathon, coding went on through the night. We did provide a quiet space for our hackers to catch some Zs or tune out for a bit. Even the best hackers need a little shut-eye before presenting their projects! And if they got too hungry to focus, some late-night snacks would help solve those cravings.

What did the students think?

Motivation levels were high, as the best team of each challenge could win a private dinner with the customers. All the teams are invited to our exclusive DEL20 customer event in April, where they will get the chance to discover even more about our customers’ challenges. At this event, the winning teams of each challenge will also get the chance to present their solution to a larger audience and win a gift voucher. 

So, apart from it being a great learning experience, what did the students like the most about the delaware hackathon? “We already knew delaware from some of the lectures they had given at our college. In a sense, it’s quite exceptional to get such a true-to-life taste of a company’s projects,” said Arno Coorevits, Applied Information Technology student at University College Ghent. “Exactly!” adds Robin Wijnant, ICT Web & Mobile student at Odisee Brussels, “and we loved the venue. For a first edition, everything was organized to a tee. We knew exactly what to bring and what to expect.” Their team member Jonas De Vrient, who also studies Applied Information Technology, points out that he would have loved to code even more, “but we had to take care of the brain work first.” 

A second team of students, one of which is an intern at delaware, couldn’t get over the food: “From breakfast, to lunch, to dinner, we were spoiled rotten.” As for the challenges, they do suggest adding the specific skills required to solve each issue, “because we didn’t have any real experience in VR, for one. It was really exciting to wear the HoloLens, though! And we also learned a lot about VR, thanks to the support of the delaware experts.

What about our customers?

House of HR, one of our DEL20 customers, was there during the hackathon to assist the teams working on their solution. “We were most impressed: some candidates really stood out with their original approach. This is a great starting point for us to develop these solutions further,” says Wilbert Ingels, Group CIO at House of HR. The challenge as presented by House of HR was to get a clear view on a candidate’s profile during a job interview. The students created a nifty application that analyzes the conversation and suggests follow-up questions.

“We were glad to see the close interaction between customers and students,” explains Robrecht Coucke, Business Partnership Manager & IT enterprise architect Commercial at Bekaert. “The delaware hackathon has put a whole new spin on the challenges we face and how to solve them.” Bekaert challenged students to make employee training more efficient. They came up with a new way to train production operators, topped with a bit of gamification. Great thinking!

Special thanks go to our sponsors (La Lorraine Bakery Group, Coca-Cola and Microsoft), all participants and the entire crew. Thank you all for making the first edition of the delaware hackathon so memorable. We can’t wait for our next edition in 2020!

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