Photo courtesy of HackJunction.

Being the somewhat nerd I am, the second part of my thanksgiving break was spent in Helsinki, Finland, at a hackathon called HackJunction. Junction is Europe’s largest hackathon, and draws over 1200 programmers from around the world each year to participate. There were 52 countries represented at this year’s HackJunction, working on different tracks that ranged from Financial Technology to Internet of Things. There were expert programmers who have worked in industries for years that attended, as well as inexperienced newbies such as myself. All in all, it was an awesome experience where I could use some of the skills I’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to a project or challenge.

First, before anything, let’s talk about the venue. The venue was SICK. The sponsors rented out a place called Wanha Samata, which was this big warehouse with multiple rooms for the different tracks. The coolest part was the laser that stretched from one end to the other that you can see below:

HackJunction’s venue.

The venue also had a snack room that was constantly filled up with energy bars, energy drinks, coffee, etc.; basically, whatever you need to not sleep and keep coding throughout a night! There were also many companies that came to talk about what they do, give out freebies, and network. It was a great space where lots of innovative minds came together to do all things tech.

Since I was a relatively inexperienced programmer, I decided to tackle on some the mini challenges rather than the big tracks that some of the fellow GTL-ers I came with. One such was a music challenge, where there was a jumbled audio clip and we had to figure out the name of the song. At first, there was an inaudible voice that couldn’t be understood. So I threw the clip on Audacity and reversed it and came a clear message this time “Come tell us the name of the song, but it’s not as simple as you think.” That’s honestly about as far as I got as after that, I tried nearly everything: encoding the clip, decoding the clip, modifying the bitrate, tracking down messages in the source code, etc. but nothing really seemed to work. Another challenge I did was mess with some algorithms a local Helsinki tech company provided, which put my creative mind at work with varying success.

One team, made of Ryan and Maria, decided on the track “revolutionizing the bus stop”. Their project was PetStop, where each bus stop had an interactive screen with a puppy that the user can interact with. They can feed it, play with it, walk it, etc. I got to see them demo it and it was really cool!

Being at a hackathon such as this one just opened my eyes to a world of technology; I saw some amazing creations (a guitar hero type platform, but with a real guitar – Yousician Company) and things that I didn’t think I would need until I saw it (a smart, social, interactive coffee cup that was fueled by the thermal energy of the coffee – Paulig Muki Smartcup). Even if you’re not a programmer, I would recommend dropping by a hackathon if it ever comes up. There’s plenty of neat things to see!

The Dream Team!

P.S. You also get a free t-shirt.