Hackathons could finally be fun… again

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Silicon Straits Saigon and events

Since the premier of Silicon Straits Saigon (SSS), we have aimed to become not only a fun and innovative working place but also a gathering space for like-minded people: developers, hackers and challenge-seekers. To support this vision, one of our focuses is to organize  a wide range of interesting and fun events. These are not just like other typical events; these are unique workshops, sharing and competitions that best reflect our culture at SSS; the very culture we want to help build for the developers’ and technologists’ community in Ho Chi Minh City.

Hack Challenge 2014

A very good example of what we are aiming for would be our recent Hack Challenge, organized as part of the global Google Dev Fest 2014. We differentiate the event from other Hackathons by giving out no manuals or instructions. The participants were given a problem and that was it. It was similar to the story of a startup: like real entrepreneurs, participants would encounter a problem and have to figure out their own ways to solve it.

In this case, we let all the participants form their own teams, got them into our cozy working space, showed them three light bulbs and told them turning those on would win them the 1st prize. The introduction part was over and the competition had started even before the teams realized that was all the instruction they would get. Even registering the name of their team was a challenge on its own.

 

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Lights, Camera, Action – Time for hacking

 

The first light bulb was easy and most teams managed to get past it. However, the second light bulb was really tough. This was the true test that allowed us to observe the teams at their best (and worst). For four hours, the frustration of repeated trials and errors built up slowly. Yet no one gave up. When the first team lighted their second bulb up, the air was bursting with cheers and excitement.

 

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Second light bulb on :)

 

That moment was mesmerizing. They did not get jealous; the success of one team meant the solution was really out there (well, after hours of trying, they were bound to think that the challenge might be impossible after all). Instead of dissuading, it encouraged them to work even harder. Altogether the adrenaline rushes of the last minutes and the constant possibilities of being overcome by other teams pushed the participants to their limits and built up the atmosphere for the final climax of the event when one team, in the most dramatic manner possible, managed to win just … 2 minutes before time was up.

 

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CloudJay – The 1st team to light up the 2nd bulb

 

After the event, we went around to ask the teams for their opinions of the Hack Challenge.

“You guys totally caught me off guard, we were never prepared for this.”

“A total surprise!!!”

“I didn’t expect this type of challenge.”

“I had thought it just would be like any other Hackathon in Vietnam where you join and build something.”

“I didn’t expect that we were going to hack something for real.”

Those were the common feedbacks. And it’s wonderful, since even though the participants did not get what they expected, they were not disappointed. On the contrary, they were more than excited even after hours of trying without results. Many were still frustrated days after since we did not reveal the solutions until one week later.

However, thanks to this, we knew we had organized an excellent competition. If it was purely a frustrating experience, the participants would just leave and never come back. This time, they asked when the next one would be and kept bugging us with what they needed to learn in order to solve the problem. That was what made us happy the most: for the participants did not just ask for the solutions. They want to know how to get to the solutions on their own. And to get themselves best equipped and leveled-up for next time.

We’d better get ourselves ready to not let them down with an easy challenge next time though. They might get tough, but we will get even tougher.

Stay tuned for the soon announcement of our upcoming challenge, happenning in Feb 2015.

SSS Full-stack Engineer

Love Silicon Straits and want to know more about our company culture, working environment or job vacancies?
Find out more at careers.siliconstraits.vn.

Silicon Straits
Be Challenged. Be Inspired. Be Different.




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on January 2, 2015

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