The IBM Developer Hackathon was a two-day competition for students in the Australia and New Zealand region. In a non-stop period of 48 hours, participants had to present their ideas using technological solutions developed by IBM that addressed either COVID-19 or Climate Change.
The competition was generally targeted at budding developers which could form teams on the spot that day, or as Jagen and Josh had done, come into the competition as a pre-formed duo. A highlight of the Hackathon experience was that the two students were able to hear live talks from IBM developers on new initiatives, technologies and coding experiences to broaden their perspective on the industry.
We asked Josh and Jagen about their Hackathon experience.
What was the biggest challenge your team faced in the competition?
Our biggest challenge was our lack of coding experience due to the fact we come from a Commerce/Law (Joshua) and Arts/Law (Jagen) background. To add to this, we were up against tough competition from all across Australia, including professional developers and other university teams with extensive coding experience. Despite the fact we were up against an exceptionally talented group of individuals, we really benefited from being part of the Dalyell Program where we were able to develop an invaluable relationship with Dr Sandra Seno-Alday, Director of the Dalyell Program. Sandra provided a lot of help and guidance along the way and we wouldn't have gotten to where we were without her!
How do you think the Dalyell Program helped prepare you for the competition?
Beyond placing us with close proximity to leading academics, the Dalyell program was able to help prepare us for the competition as we were really pushed outside our comfort zone as we participated in the Dalyell course, BUDL3901 Innovative Solutions to Change the World. During this program, we had our first encounter with IBM who introduced us to ideas such as design thinking and the customer-centric approach. Furthermore, they also showed us that technology can be easy and accessible even if you don’t necessarily come from a science or engineering background. What is most important is one's ability to think critically and laterally (i.e. outside the box) and this was exactly what we tried to do during the competition.
What is the most valuable skill you've gained from the whole experience?
Josh: One of the biggest insights I gained from the competition is the hands-on coding experience that helped grow our solution from an idea and into a working prototype. Coming from outside a technological background, it can be difficult to understand or grasp the immense opportunity and yet limitations of our ideas. Competing in this competition has allowed me to understand coding and software development to the extent that I can now brainstorm new ideas that are not only exciting but also practical and effective.
Jagen: For myself, the greatest lesson I've taken away has got to be the ability to adapt. We often hear that it is the survival of the fittest but in reality it's not so much about what we know but about how we can learn effectively, navigate through unknown territory and come out on top. Competing in this competition without a technological background has meant that I've had to adapt my skills to new requirements and think in new ways about the problems we face. Having learnt quite a substantial amount of coding over the weekend, I can definitely say my skill set has changed rapidly and the perspectives I use to approach tasks has broadened in scope.