2023 Winter Hackathon Recap + 3 Reasons We ♥ Hackathons at SEP

April 11, 2023
Software developer in SEP t-shirt examines code on computer screen

SEP’s bi-annual hackathon was a full weekend of fun projects and exciting learnings. Read on to learn more about the importance of hackathons to SEP’s culture and for a recap of what projects we tackled during our Winter 2023 Hackathon session.

Three Reasons We ❤ Hackathons at SEP

Besides the obvious things like the fact they are really fun and we get to hang out with other nerds while doing our favorite thing—making stuff—there are three essential reasons we at SEP love our hackathon weekends so much.

1. Hackathons showcase our creativity.

While our day-to-day work falls within the bounds of client needs and sprint priorities, a hackathon weekend allows our makers to pursue whatever project or solution tops their list. These are the times we ask, “If you could make anything, what would it be?” And then we set about making those things. Designers and developers can explore the other’s perspective in a safe and low-pressure environment that ultimately results in stronger collaboration on client projects when the weekend is up.

2. Hackathons introduce us to new leaders.

For hackathon project pitches and team recruitment, it doesn’t matter if a maker has two years of experience or two decades. These maker weekends may see an SE1 leading a team with more experienced developers in ways that don’t usually happen in the office. This can open doors for newer team members and identify who the up-and-coming leaders in our building might be. This is a safe way for aspiring leaders to take on team responsibilities and learn about goal setting, risk assessment, team management, and more.

3. Hackathons teach us new skills.

It is super common for some projects during a Hackathon to be the result of a maker wanting to learn a new language or get familiar with a new library or tech. Often, these are so new that not many in the industry have mastered them yet. By experimenting and learning in these real-life projects, we cut the learning curve that new tech might require in upcoming client projects.  Since a hackathon is an entirely safe venue to fail with nothing on the line besides time, we take risks that we could never do on a billable project (whether that means new tech or something else). This also allows SEP to stay on the cutting edge and answer “YES!” when asked if we have experience with XYZ new language or technology.

software engineers smiling while working on a large screen with code displaying

SEP’s 2023 Winter Hackathon Projects

What projects did we tackle this year? Here’s a recap:

Temperature Blanket

Project Concept: Provides Historical Weather Data to Reference for Knitting Weather Blankets
Technologies: PWA, NOAA, .Net Core, Gatsby, SQLite, SpatiaLite

SEPeer Tom has a wife who makes temperature blankets. However, it’s not always easy to get the weather data necessary. This app helps with that by using data from NOAA to get accurate, historical temperature data for any location.

Buddhabrot II

Project Concept: Preliminary Tooling to Build the Highest Resolution Buddhabrot (Once Again!)
Technologies: .NET, HPC, Avalonia UI

Are you familiar with the Buddhabrot? SEPeer David once held the world record for the highest resolution Buddhabrot and felt it was time to reclaim the throne. During the hackathon, he built preliminary tooling that will eventually help build the next version of the Buddhabrot.

Learn Shorthand

Project Concept: Mobile App That Teaches Shorthand, Similar to Duolingo
Technologies: Flutter, SVG, mobile

This fun concept is an app like Duolingo but for learning shorthand. The app has built-in lessons, drawing tools, shorthand checking, and quizzes.

Birthday Bot

Project Concept: Slackbot That Automates Birthday and Anniversary Messages
Technologies: .NET

At SEP, Slack reigns supreme as our communication tool of choice. For birthdays and work anniversaries, our office manager pushes out company-wide well-wishes on Slack. This was a Slack bot to automate these celebratory messages. The bot would eliminate the need for a human to write those greetings and to maintain and look up the dates.

Our hackathon is an internal event where we invite SEP makers to participate for the weekend – anyone interested within our walls can join the fun. We see a mix of designers and engineers, various skill sets and backgrounds, and no limitations on which languages or types of projects are on the table.

Learn more about SEP Makes »

For many of our makers, the project doesn’t end when the weekend is up. Depending on what languages they used or how close they are to a shippable product, some projects continue on in the makers’ free time for weeks or months afterward. And any transferrable knowledge to project work is used as soon as possible for our clients. We love this creative tradition and look forward to next time!

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