“Hackathon” is a compound word combining “hacking” and “marathon,” referring to an event to hack or develop computer programs at a certain time and place like a marathon. Recently, however, the term refers not only to hacking but also to gathering in the same space at a certain time to create ideas and works overnight. Facebook is well-known for hosting hackathons where all of its team including developers, designers, HR staff, marketing people, and finance personnel gather together to create and develop ideas and thought overnight, with food and snacks provided for them by the company.
During the first hackathon held at the KU Maker Space, participants had to make personalized items that can give small but definite happiness. The screening process evaluated proposals of 20 participant teams, 10 of which were chosen for the finals. Following an orientation at 9 am on January 31 and laser printer and 3D printer trainings at 10 am, the students started making items from 1 pm. The participants had to implement their ideas using the materials, parts, and programs that were provided. During the sleepless 2-day event, participants completed and presented prototypes by 3 pm the next day, followed by an announcement of winners and an awards ceremony. One grand prize (1,500,000 won), one top excellence award (1 million won), and two excellence awards (500,000 won) were given to selected winners by category. Team HANUS received the grand prize for a small DJ Box that produces and plays beats that can free people from mundane daily life, appealing to their tactile, auditory, visual senses, by pressing an analog-sentiment button. In addition, Team 42.195, which developed a personalized soju-beer machine that maintains custom soju-beer ratios, received the top excellence award. When the soju-beer button is pressed on the machine, soju and beer flow out, and the weight sensor detects the pre-set weight and closes the valve when the set percentage is reached.
The two excellence awards went to Team Laos, which developed a Yes or No decision-making machine to help indecisive people and Team Hogwart Anam Campus, which developed a magic wand that records people’s movement on a map using Harry Potter's representative magic spells. An official of the hackathon said, "Despite the fact that it was the first ever hackathon held at Korea University and the time and space were limited, various interesting prototypes were produced." He added that the university will continue its efforts to develop this event, improving on issues found this time round. In particular, due to limitations in equipment and space, and since the students had to use the given materials only, there was no room for diversity of materials. On top of that, equipment operation training was carried out while the participating teams were working on their projects as no prior training was given, giving them little time to complete their work by the deadline. Meanwhile, Korea University will provide training to produce hackathon + α outcomes and secure sufficient time for training in collaboration with the private mentoring team as well as professors and faculty members of Korea University.
Winner of the 1st Hackathon Excellence Award
- Ki-Woong Kwon
(’15, Department of Mechanical Engineering)
- Chae Young Ahn
(’16, Department of Mechanical Engineering)
What difficulties did you have during the event?
We had constraints in time and space and had to create what we wanted with the given materials only. So it was hard for us to find an appropriate midpoint. Our team could get things done quickly because we had built up teamwork early on through automobile club activities in our department. We developed the work using machines like a 3D printer and laser cutter and adding things we hadn’t even thought about. However, Arduino coding was a bit difficult to realize as we had never used it before. Since we had to complete the project in a short timeframe, we needed to make quick and accurate decisions continuously. It was a process of tricky choices, and this event taught us how important our choices are.
What kind of work did Team Laos make?
It is a machine that will bring small but definite happiness. We are always at the crossroads of alternatives, such as "Jjajang or Jjambbong, mountain or sea." While there are people who choose their own way with a unique taste, some find it hard to make a choice and think deeply about what to choose. In many cases, they even think what if there is someone else who can make a choice for them. So we have come up with a machine that will help make decisions. If you set it to Yes/No O/X, or Up/Down for questions with two options, the machine will pick the answer at random.
What have you taken away from this event?
This event was meaningful for us. We know a lot about how to produce things, but we don’t have a lot of knowledge about computer programming. It was meaningful that we could create a work by learning what we didn’t know through the contest. It was also meaningful to interact with other students in the competition. We didn’t see them as competitors. Instead we carefully watched and talked to the other teams to see how they solved problems. We hadn’t had a chance to meet students from other departments before, and this hackathon event gave us the opportunity to do so. We were amazed to see students from various departments solving problems in their own way. Among others, it was very impressive how students School of Art and Design made a wine holder shaped like a bird shape instead of the standard rectangular one.
What are your wishes for the future?
I hope that there will be many more competitions of this kind on various topics. We tried to avoid guesswork as possible, but now that we’ve done this event, we wish we could have put to the test as many ideas as possible no matter how reckless they were. If we have a chance to do it again, we would like to approach it with a whole new perspective.