Code For Good

This weekend was the JPMorgan Code for Good Hackathon, and every year it seems to get better and better. Of course there are the usual improvements that are made based on the feedback from the attendees and volunteers, but I’m talking about the students and the solutions that they come up with for the challenges presented. Every year, the applications the teams create are more creative, inventive and clever.

This year showcased three new charities and one returning from last year, all of which needed very different solutions. I decided to attend both days, although I was only “signed up” for Saturday, so about mid-way through Friday, I made my way to our Bank Street location to get my goodies(this year was a pullover fleece and t-shirt) and namebadge. Afterwards, I went down to the lobby where the students were pouring in from all over the country and walked around to mix and mingle a bit. The groups were quite varied and traveled from all over with kids from northern Scotland as well as here in London. Most majors and backgrounds were Computer Science, but there were some MIS, engineering, and other science-related degrees mixed in here and there as well.

The kickoff speech and NGO presentations lasted about an hour, and then it was off to deliberate, assign groups to NGO’s, and chat with the charity representatives for a better understanding of just what it was they were looking for. Finally, after a few hours it was time to hop into the code and let the kids get their hands dirty. And for us, that meant finally being put to good use as SME’s(Subject Matter Experts) and being able to help out with problems the kids ran into.

The coding area was the same this year, in the buildings’ canteen area, but this year there were several really cool additions including a jukebox, life-sizes board games(think Connect 4 that’s two metres high) and a fuse-ball table. They also moved us SME’s out of the separate back room into the middle of everyone, which was a welcome change. Last year the divide seemed to keep the students from coming to ask questions, whereas this year they didn’t seem nearly as scared to ask for help.

Knowing myself and that I need a good nights sleep to function, I went home to catch some shut eye before returning first thing the next morning to do some more SME’ing and judging. In what few hours I was gone(about 7 to be exact), the teams had a lot to show for themselves. They had until noon to finish their prototypes and submit the code and presentations, and then the judging began! We went through technical reviews, then sent the teams to present to the NGO representatives so they could each choose one team to progress to the final round where they were to present in the main auditorium.

The winning team wasn’t necessarily the one that had coded the best over the last 24 hours, but they had a good working prototype and a wonderful presentation. And they each got an iPad Air as a prize! Can’t beat that in return for 24 jam-packed hours of caffeine and coding! It was a great event with some fantastic projects that can be taken away and continued by teams within the bank. I can’t wait to see what next years event has in store for us now!

Until next time.