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Flip the Script: Hackathon 2020

A collage of different aspects from Hackathon from finding fall leaves, creating technology themed play-doh sculptures, putting together Hackathon hack packs, showing off our Source Allies gear, showing off the fnished projects, and lego creations.

This year Source Allies hosted our third annual internal hackathon. Our goals for this year’s Hackathon were to involve more teammates both in the planning and participation of Hackathon, adapt gracefully to unknown changes along the way due to Covid-19, continue to have projects be successful by the end of the ~48 hour Hackathon and most importantly, continue to foster relationships across teammates and help them develop new skills.

Increase Number of Teammates Involved in Hackathon

Hackathon 2020 saw a lot more participation from our teammates this year! A planning committee formed and met bi-weekly for about 7 months to plan every aspect of the event. We continued to have our project selection committee tasked with reviewing and selecting projects for our Hackathon weekend. When taking into consideration our project sponsors and participants, 25% of our teammates got involved with the event!

Adapt Gracefully to Our Constantly-Changing Environment

When planning started for Hackathon 2020 we anticipated being able to hold the event in person, as we had done for the two years prior. By mid-summer we realized we should start planning for at least a partially-virtual Hackathon, allowing us to completely transition to virtual if needed.

This extra set of requirements both caused and allowed us to brainstorm new ways to connect teams virtually while trying to manage zoom fatigue. We decided to incorporate “side missions” to help with this. The thought was that we could help break up the long-game project by providing mental breaks and other opportunities to meet with other teammates. Some of these were as simple as taking a walk to find a fall leaf, others were a bit more complicated like putting together a set of building blocks to make an intended object.

Foster Relationships Among Teammates

Joining Source Allies offers an opportunity to work with a lot of different teammates! With that said, you’re typically only working with a handful of teammates on your day-to-day projects. Hackathon provides a way for teammates to get to work with others they don’t normally work with and really get to know the broader Source Allies team.

With this year’s Hackathon being partially virtual, we saw an opportunity to help foster these relationships more than we had done in the past. Through our side missions, we did things like guessing who a random fact belonged to, and extreme tic-tac-toe to help get teammates outside of their Hackathon project and team, and get to know others. Teammates highly enjoyed some of these activities, so we hope to continue to do these types of activities in future Hackathons!

Successfully Complete Hackathon Projects

We tried to provide a variety of projects so that every teammate could participate in Hackathon knowing they would have fun and be successful. This Hackathon was no different. We had three projects spanning skills from Terraform and Jekyll to woodworking. It’s important when selecting projects to determine what an achievable minimum viable project (MVP) looks like so that the team has a concrete goal to work towards. With such a short amount of time to hack, it was important to decide on those initial goals at the very beginning of the project, so that the team had a concrete path to MVP. Here’s a look at this year’s Hackathon teams and projects!

GAAC (Github Automation as Code)

The goal was to create a tool that would alleviate Source Allies’ GitHub administrators manually managing repositories, groups (teams), users, and access levels. Not only would this make admins’ lives easier, but would also allow users to self-serve and have an automated continuous delivery job apply the changes.

Requirements included having an easy to understand config file, and working with an existing GitHub account full of existing resources. The team utilized Terraform and Terraform modules to come up with a nearly complete MVP implementation.

direct entity duplication code example.


Team Octotube crushed three goals:

  1. Build a better video player for the Source Allies Website
  2. Make it easier to contribute videos to the Source Allies website
  3. Improve the site’s performance, especially with loading images Before and after shots of Google Lighthouse's assessment of the Source Allies website. Before, 74; after, 86.

Time during a Hackathon flies by and often teams aren’t able to accomplish all they set out to do. Octotube wanted to make sure that regardless of how much work they were able to accomplish, it was available in prod at the end of the Hackathon. This continuous delivery helped keep them on track and allowed the team to see their progress and accomplishments in real-time.

Swiper No Swiping

Team Swiper No Swiping set out to build three stations at the entrances for the Source Allies buildings. The signage has a reminder about Covid-19 symptoms, with the option to later change out the signage for announcements or other communication/announcements. The stations contain items such as hand sanitizer, wipes, tissues, masks and visitor sign-in logs. Make no mistake, these tables were not purchased, but hand-built by several teammates in less than 48 hours! From left to right: single-legged and four-legged stands showing the Source Allies health policy. The      four-legged stands also have bins containing masks and wet wipes.

Looking Forward to 2021

Connecting in person is important to us at Source Allies, and we hope that our next Hackathon can return to being held in-person. This past year has allowed us to think outside of the box and come up with some ideas that we might not have thought to do prior. We’re hoping to find new ways to incorporate some of our better ideas into Hackathon next year and continue to make this an experience that all teammates would want to be involved in.

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