How to organize a hackathon as a student 101. Part Two

    Hello again. This is a continuation of the article about organizing a student hackathon.
    This time I’ll tell you about the problems that appear right during the hackathon and how we solved them, the local events that we added to the standard “a lot of coding and eating pizza” and some tips about which applications to use for the simplest organization of events of this magnitude.

    After all financial preparations are completed, the most interesting stage begins: site preparation. Here you can find the largest number of problems and couples about which you do not even think about. Let's start by ordering various snacks and equipment. Two main problems immediately follow from here: who will receive them and where to put all this? I remind you once again that all the organizers are students, and the hackathon took place on January 26-27, which is exactly in the middle of the trimester. For each order, we needed 4-5 people (given the scale of the event, we could easily get 20-30 boxes of drinks at a time) and the only option for us was to search for volunteers among other courses. Of course, you can use Facebook groups to find them, but Slack is our national candidate. You can create a separate channel for each delivery, integrate them into Trello (an application for creating action lists) and then add those who agreed to help and record everything that was received in Trello. So, everything is received, even suppose that the delivery was to the correct university building (a couple of times they brought it to other buildings and the Imperial was almost completely in South Kensington, we could have delivered it to the University of London by mistake) and that we have enough people and several carts for transportation of especially heavy loads, what's next? What to do with all this load? Each large university community has its own small warehouse for such events. Unfortunately, in a 2x3 room, most likely everything will not fit. Here university sponsors came to our aid. Several tons (!) Of drinks and snacks were delivered to our partner from the student union. A small digression. Each faculty has its own union: engineering, medical, scientific and geological. Our engineer has about 2 free rooms (only shhhh, I don’t know how much this generally follows university rules) were completely (!) Converted into warehouses for one event. Then there will be a time lapse of how we got these things out of there. My back then did not thank me at all.Link

    It is very difficult to find where to contain all these things, it is even more difficult then to distribute them correctly. For reference: the entire zone 3. Lower and 2 upper hackathons. The sizes are approximately equal and in general there are no problems with the distribution. Until people with special dietary preferences appear. Vegans, vegetarians and many others. We always send out a questionnaire in advance to know how much to order. Naturally, emails are forgotten and lost. Therefore, we always add 20% to the main order in the form of spare special options, such as margaritas with gluten-free pastry. Expensive? Undoubtedly. But the last thing we need is warlike vegans who didn’t have enough food without animal products. Modern problems require modern solutions.

    Suppose that everything miraculously fits. Magic, not otherwise. Even that everyone was blown up for the night. What's next? Remember I talked about “swag”? Yeah, and by the way, every sponsor has it. And everyone is designed for a minimum of 200 people, and for large sponsors and generally for 300. It also needs to be stored, but the main thing is not even that. I also said that we have our own “swag". And here it is for 500 people. And the problem is its fragmentation. Many things came the night before the hackathon, and there was no chance of being prepared for this. Moreover, all these things must be neatly packed in bags. 500 pieces. 500, Carl. So I had to organize an impromptu conveyor: there were vouchers for alcoholic drinks in the bar, t-shirts, sets with paste and brush, mugs, stickers, and I don’t even remember how much more. And despite the fact that we ordered this beauty from different suppliers and they all came at different times. I had to sweat in order to earn extra money at the factory as a bonus to organizing the event itself. Spoiler: we finished training at 4 in the morning, and the beginning at 8:30. I stayed only until midnight to be on duty for the rest of the night. Then follows the rather boring part about the arrangement of tables, the arrangement of extension cords and other obligatory trash.

    The time has come X. Sponsors come early, get settled, tactically lay out “swag” to attract more students. From the memorable: one company during the opening said that there are two types of employers. Those who pay well pay respect to their employees and allow them to develop creatively. Like for example (company name). And about the second they can tell by their example all the other sponsors. This phrase became a candidate for the prize for the best meme (about his presentation at the very end of the last article). Students arrive as early as possible to grab more things for free. Here are a few words about how we let them in. Tickets are purchased on Eventbride, and all organizers have a scanning application. Problems begin when participants don’t read the conditions: a minimum age of 18 years, for example, or bring a passport with you, or even tickets cannot be transferred after the deadline (three days before the hackathon). Unfortunately, many have to refuse. But from what I remember: two who forgot passports from London, so they just went home and took them with them. Those to whom we handed over the tickets we were allowed to go after all the others, scanned the tickets so that later their owner would not try to slip through the bonus.

    Now a little about the problems with the tickets themselves: there are only about 400 of them. Plus a few for graduates, as a farewell gift. Initially, we kept them on the university’s website, but it fell steadily 10 minutes before the start of sales up to 30 minutes after the start, and they were distributed randomly between the participants. I'm already silent about race conditions because of which we sold an average of 20-30 more than we should. The solution was the Eventbride website. It copes with the load perfectly, tickets on average fly off in 1-3 seconds per lot, they are issued exactly on schedule. But then another problem appears: the honesty of the participants. Using the very first Google link, you can download and configure the bot, and ideally we try to intimidate such wise guys that we canceled their tickets. In reality, it is almost impossible to prove that you have not used / used the bot. Tickets, in turn, are divided into Imperial / everyone else and (a little discrimination) for our students there are several more. To help the department, such rules.

    Further more specific training problems. One of the events that we hold closer to midnight is an open bar. Naturally, in a hackathon culture in the absence of sleep, this is not always a good idea. Therefore, few people visit. But those who come are always happy, drinks are free (up to 5 GBP inclusive), a rather large supply of vouchers, plus this is a great way to relax after a day of continuous hackathon. Cons are more likely for the organizers: many are quiet, while the organizers are tired of watching everything, they manage to get a good drink. Of course we deal with them. But it never came to straightforward strong problems. It is important to note that, like the hackathon, the evening bar has a sponsor. And this year, they came off to the full, having bought all those present "huntsman bombs." It was very difficult to explain (which I am completely for, pour more)that half-dead participants on campus are a little different from the ones they want to hire in their company and stop this chaos at about the 30th cocktail. After that was the legendary Nandos chicken delivery.

    It is legendary because the owners of local restaurants came with delivery men to see who decided to lower a few thousand to chicken on Saturday night. In total, in order to unload everything and distribute between the zones, it took us 2 hours and 30 volunteers. Photos are attached. Do not forget to shout “here to vegans”, otherwise they will eat vegetarian instead of vegan food and then they will curse. Another memorable event was karaoke. Everyone already came off, including us. Just imagine: 200 people who occupied the lecture hall at 2 a.m., singing absolutely random songs (I sang Let It Go, my sister would be proud). It was wonderful, but again typical problems: to drag equipment, set up, arrange with the security and library (Saturday night is a very popular time to visit) so that we would not be kicked out. The guard was offered to sing

    All this, of course, is fun. But. The hackathon goes on for two days: participants can come and go. The organizers are not. In total, I slept 3.5 hours in two days and 5 hours in a day before the start. And that is because other volunteers forced (and a trip to the bar made itself felt). It was possible to sleep either in a separate room with yoga rugs, or where it worked out. I slept in a chair, it is not prohibited by law, I sleep where I want. The main thing is that there are 3 people who are not sleeping on each hackzone. Another task was to periodically check the projector, since it could overheat and we definitely had no extra money for repairs. To put it, we needed 6 people and 2 carts. In general, affairs were for tonsils almost all the time. At some point, we began distributing popcorn and cotton candy, again, we were cooking. Fire safety rating has fallen

    This part went through many problems in the organization and their solutions. Engineers after all. But a huge number of things remained behind the scenes: what were the problems during the hackathon itself, the election of prizes and awarding, how the “smart” voting worked, feedback from sponsors, and how we dealt with cleaning the premises a week after. And also a small flex: this is the first student hackathon to receive coverage on the Air Force. I will write about this in the next episode of this hackathon saga. In the near future I’ll start writing, but for now, here is my email: and the project website:

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