Last weekend (16th - 17th Apr, 2016), I participated in hackUST 2016, the biggest hackathon in Hong Kong organized by HKUST. It was my first hackathon and surprisingly our project is pretty successful and won two prizes. Thanks to my awesome teammate, Benny Chan for coming up with the innovative idea and making the UI/UX design for out app :)

(In case you are wondering, the girl in the above picture isn’t me, but an organizer of hackUST)

Why Did I Participate in It

I’ve read a lot about hackathons. People talk about how exciting it is to join one and how happy it is to meet other developers and designers during the events. I want to try one myself, but never got the chance due to time conflict or other reasons. But this time, even though my final exams are approaching, I told myself that I can’t let the chance slip away again. I told myself that I can get much more from the hackathon than “wasting” my weekend for studying. And you know what, it turns out that I’ve got way more than what I’ve imagined :)

What Did We Build for It

We built an iOS app called IOU One. Basically it’s an app that allows you to handle small debts between friends via a favor.

Before the hackathon, Benny had already got the idea of IOU and had started the UI design. During the hackathon we discussed and improved the original idea and design, and I, as the iOS developer in our team, implemented the design made by Benny.

I admit, as the cost of fast development, the code I wrote has tons of bad practices. But I think it’s acceptable since we are not likely to further maintain the app, and for the hackathon we are only going to demo it to the judges and other participants, so I don’t need to care about the potential bugs caused by incorrect user input. However I will still fix these if time permits.

How Does It Feel to Participate in It

I love the overall atmosphere in hackUST. The staffs and organizers are friendly and responsible and other participants are always happy to discuss about the project they are working on with you. More importantly, this hackathon is completely free of charge, yet they offer free T-shirt, water bottle as well as food and snacks to all participants. Decent prizes are also offered, with money from 5000 to 80000 HKD, as well as things like 3D printers, Microsoft Surface 3 and flight and accommodation to Taiwan. A big thanks to all the sponsors and organizers :)

Our lovely organizers <3

I used nearly all the 24 hours to code/design, except meals time that add up to no more than 2 hours and a nap less than 1 hour. Although I’ve got used to the lack of sleep as a collage student (lol), I am extremely exhausted when we finally finished our product. But during and after the pitching, I was so excited that I forgot the fatigue in my body and just immersed myself into the happiness of success. Unfortunately, I slept till noon on the next Monday and missed my morning lecture.

Here are some pictures taken at the hackathon:

What Did I Get From It

With the innovative idea from Benny and our 24 hours’ hard work, we made a seemingly nice looking and functional app to demo to the judges. And luckily we made it into one of the final 3 teams out of the 16 teams in FinTech category, who have the chance to pitch their project to all 440 participants. Finally, we got the “Think Out of The Box Award” (a 3D printer for each team member) and the “President’s 1 HKUST Student Award” (10000 HKD). Unfortunately we missed the best award in FinTech which gives 30000 HKD. But I am already pretty happy with this result since it’s just my first ever hackathon.

Other than the prizes, I got a lot more from this event. I met several new friends who are also developers/designers as I am, so we share many interests. And two startup teams have contacted me and invited me to join them as their iOS developer. I am that kind of programmers who is capable and happy to implement others’ good ideas, but don’t have much innovative ideas from themselves. So these are good opportunities for me to get a good project to work on and meet a group of energetic students with a big dream and also the skills to implement their idea. I decided to join the startup team led by a year 3 HKUST student Benson and help them to bring their product to iOS.

Besides, as a students, I want the real working experience in IT industry, which is more convincing to my future employers than hackathons and startup projects. Right before the hackathon I was still looking for a summer intern, and now my teammate Benny, who has his own company SillyCube, has contacted me and is willing to offer me a summer intern opportunity. This can really helps in my future career.

In Conclusion

I really enjoy this weekend, and as my first hackathon, these two days will be one of my best memories in my life. Again, thanks to all the staffs and sponsors who made this hackathon happened, and thanks to Benny for his idea and efforts in this project. Now I’ve learned how awesome a hackathon is, and I will participate in more whenever I have the chance.