Information Systems student Jordan Christensen writes about his experiences at the SAP Lumira BizViz Hackathon held Sept 10-12, 2015, at the SAP Labs in Palo Alto.
The first night, a Thursday, was scheduled as an information session during which SAP employees and interns explained what would be expected of us as competitive programmers and what the schedule of events would be. The SAP employees and interns truly love their jobs and it was very obvious throughout the night. They provided delicious food for the attendees to munch on while networking with each other. The main objective, besides understanding the event requirements and schedule, was to relax and network with the other attendees while informally forming teams that balanced the skillset of each with group cohesion.
Like the introduction and networking event on the first night, SAP provided endless snacks, red bull, fountain soda and consistently tasty meals during both days of the hackathon. This was my first hackathon ever, so I was a little unsure of what to expect; I anticipated it would look like the movies, many programmers hunched over laptops and keeping their ideas secret from each other. It turned out that teams were not keen on sharing ideas or helping each with code since; there was limited time for each team to complete their own project and thus everybody focused on completing their own projects.
However, during the break times teams ate and laughed together creating a very fun environment. A few of us even needed to give our brains a break, so we went outside to the half basketball court to play HORSE and just had some fun in the beautiful Palo Alto climate.
My team modified a stacked bar chart in SAP Lumira to include appended images at the top of each bar to represent the data better; for our case we decided to track which countries have the highest number of visas being issued in the United States, so naturally we chose to use the flag of each country at the top of each bar. One of the criteria to win the competition was to create something unique and ‘wow’ the judges. Our idea certainly wowed the judges because it was the first time a bar chart was labeled with images appended to each bar instead of boring and bland text labels below each bar. There was intense competition among the teams, many had great ideas and most of those great ideas also were implemented with superb skill. My team was able to impress the judges enough to place in the competition and leave as winners! I was extremely impressed with what the 1st place team created; they created a sleep tracker like I’ve never seen before. They focused on how much ‘tossing’ and ‘turning’ a person does throughout the night by the hour. They then visualized this data by creating a chart that had bouncing balls over each hour of the night; the balls would bounce higher based on how much ‘tossing’ and ‘turning’ occurred at that time. I found their visualization inspiring mainly because of their unique approach to data that is typically dry and extremely boring but also because they were able to manipulate the size of the balls to grow more oblong the higher they bounced, giving the visualization a realistic feel.
I highly recommend attending a hackathon if you are interested in becoming a programmer or manipulating data in your career. The atmosphere created at such events is very stimulating and educational. I will be going to these kinds of competitions as often as I can fit them into my busy schedule. Hopefully, after reading this summary, you are motivated to expand your horizons at such an event.