Hackathons are emerging as one of the key ways students develop hands-on skills, develop exciting products, and work with tech companies. London is at the centre of the 21st century tech revolution, with London hackathons organised by companies such as Facebook; and KCL Tech‘s own internationally attended event, hackkings.
Buoyed by the success of this, first-year informatics student Fares Alaboud wanted to create a hackathon for his classmates. The premise was simple: take the essence of a hackathon experience (teamwork, hacking code, free pizza, prizes); make sure it’s accessible to first years by giving them some code to help them get started; then stand back and watch the magic happen. With the assistance of Mark Ormesher, Mustafa Al-Bassam, Alex Iurov and Sanyia Saidova, and the kind support of King’s Student Opportunity Fund, and King’s College London Teaching Fund, thus was born…
At the crack of noon, the hackathon began – the students, in teams of three, had eight hours to make an automated trading system based on trading shares of kickstarter projects, using a trading platform developed by Piotr Galar as part of Steffen Zschaler’s ‘Challenge2Code’ project. The system gives a novel slant on classical trading – their system has to use the same sort of intelligent algorithmic techniques to choose when to buy and sell shares, based on the market conditions. At the end of the day, the students’ systems competed against each other, with a range of prizes up for grabs:
- For the first-placed team, £30 each of Amazon vouchers
- For the second-placed team, £15 each of iTunes vouchers
- For the third-placed team, £10 each of Pizza Hut vouchers
Students were also entered into an hourly random draw to win a one-month premium Spotify subscription.
The day was a great success. Fares’s own words sum it up well: “It was everything I hoped it would be and more! They enjoyed the event and, most importantly, the atmosphere. They were really excited and active throughout the whole eight hours. They never gave up and always put a lot of effort into coding, knowing they didn’t have to win but at least to accomplish something. They understood that it was all about the learning experience, more than the one of winning. And that’s how they became winners.”