Energy transition in private households, personalization of cooking recipes, assistance during extreme weather events – at the 8th "hackaTUM", participants were once again able to take on challenges on exciting topics. The official hackathon of the TUM School of Computation, Information and Technology (CIT) took place at the Garching campus from November 17 to 19. Originating from a research project, the programming competition has now developed into one of the largest of its kind in Europe. The organizing team received over 1,750 applications this year. 900 participants were selected. An enrollment at TUM is not required. Students from 75 universities from three continents took part this year.
Challenges, workshops, networking events
"Anyone who is enthusiastic about coding and can withstand the 36 hours can take part," Alexandra Klymenko explains with a smile. The doctoral candidate from the Chair for Software Engineering for Business Information Systems has been organizing the weekend event in her spare time for several years together with her colleagues Stephen Meisenbacher, Nektarios Machner, Tim Schopf and Juraj Vladika. Nine prestigious sponsor companies provided the challenges this year. There was also a so-called "Wild Track", where participants were able to present their own tasks. In addition to the challenges, the companies also offered workshops and networking events.
Solving problems from everyday life
"On Friday evening, the participants were introduced to the various tasks," explains Alexandra Klymenko. "These are real problems from everyday life." One sponsor, for example, was looking for a functional comparison site for craftsman services with a fast response time that would guarantee an exceptional user experience. The participants could choose any technology for implementation. The focus of the challenge was on software engineering skills. This included selecting the optimal tools and strategies to integrate them seamlessly and achieve an outstanding solution.
Another task came from a digital media house: The Sponsor already uses an AI tool which allows news videos to be created from text in just a few minutes. The company wanted to know from the highly motivated hackers on site: What will we do tomorrow?
Eat, code, drink, repeat
Once the teams of two to four people had been formed, it was: eat, code, drink, repeat. The schedule was tight. Very few people got to sleep in the prepared seminar rooms. The aim was not just to develop a concept over the weekend. At the end, there had to be a finished product, for example in the form of an app – including a convincing short presentation. The organizing team not only provided the necessary food and plenty of energy drinks to keep the participants going, but also on Saturday, a Music Mania quiz and PowerPoint karaoke ensured a great atmosphere and a further boost of motivation. On Sunday, the results of the challenges were evaluated by the respective sponsoring companies and two winning teams were chosen.
Overall winner from 20 top teams
In the end, the best 20 teams competed to be named the overall winner. The jury, consisting of CIT professors Florian Matthes (Chair for Software Engineering for Business Information Systems) and Jörg Ott (Chair of Connected Mobility), decided in favor of the "TreeFriends" team. Sandesh Sharma, Marcel Ganß, Nikolai Madlener and Vincent Picking had chosen the challenge of the City of Munich.
Help for threatened trees
The challenge was to find a solution that would help residents of the city during extreme weather events such as heat, storms or heavy rain. The four hackers developed an app designed to protect the green treasure of cities. "Trees in public spaces face a number of challenges in dry and hot weather, such as sealed soils and little space for roots," explains the team. "Our app notifies residents near threatened trees so that they can water them in good time, for example." Real-time alerts guide users to specific locations and provide details on the individual needs of each tree. The app provides citizens with knowledge, promotes social engagement and thus ensures the well-being of urban green spaces.
Great prizes for the winners
The outstanding commitment of "TreeFriends" and the other winning teams was rewarded with great prizes. For many participants, the prizes are not the main focus. "hackaTUM is not just a programming competition, but also a great opportunity to have fun and make new friends with cool people who share the same enthusiasm," says Alexandra Klymenko. For her and her co-organizers, the enormous effort involved in preparing and running the hackathon was well worth it. "We're looking forward to hackaTUM 2024 and are already developing ideas on how we can top the previous event," reveals the doctoral candidate.