It Was Epic: One Week Hackathon 2017

| Linda Thackeray, Director - The Garage, New England Research & Development (NERD) Center

The last week of July, the NERD Center joined Microsoft employees from all over the world to take part in the largest private Hackathon on the planet. Thanks to our incredibly talented hackers who poured their hearts, minds and creativity into their phenomenal projects. The passion and dedication was awe-inspiring. Many of them hacked into the wee hours of the night to get their projects completed.

With a 22% increase in participants from last year, this was without a doubt the most epic Hackathon in NERD history.

The Results

238 Hackers:

  • 211 – Cambridge (43% of site)
  • 24 – Burlington
  • 3 – Boston

85 Projects:

  • 10 projects competed in the worldwide judging
  • 13 teams demo’d their projects at the NERD Science Fair

Hack Your Mind

We tried something new this year at the One Week Hackathon @ NERD by focusing time and energy to hack our minds. After all, the Hackathon is all about our awesome employees exploring passions/interests, experimenting with new technology and learning new things.

For those who wanted to learn something new about Machine Learning, AI or Data Science, a quiet space was dedicated for them to spend time reviewing online courses on Engineering Academy, Learn Analytics Portal, Infopedia and Microsoft Virtual Academy.

For those that wanted to learn a new skill like 3D printing, soldering or laser cutting, we partnered with Artisan’s Asylum, a local non-profit, to offer 3 maker classes during the Hackathon.

Changing the Definition of Hacking

The Microsoft One Week Hackathon is the company-wide, multi-day, multi-location event, powered by The Garage, that brings employees and interns from all over the company together to create, innovate, and hack on ideas that inspire them. It’s the largest private hackathon in the world.

The Hackathon continues to lead the way in:

  • Evolving Microsoft’s culture and the way we work
  • Inspiring employees and customers to achieve more
  • Creating value

How do we do this? By changing the definition of hacking. When you think of hacking, you typically envision dudes in a room at 3:00 am chugging down Red Bull, working on a phone app. Hacking is that! But it is also so much more. 

Hacking is anything that brings people together to work on ideas that inspire them.

It is Joanie, a software engineer who wants to improve build check-in times. It is Meixia, a sales manager who has a growth strategy idea to increase cloud adoption and consumption. It is Steve, a finance manager who has an idea for a social marketing campaign to get more Surface Books into the hands of college students. It is Jayashree, an IT support specialist who has an idea to use IoT and robotics to improve farming and farmers’ lives. All are welcome to hack, all ideas, all disciplines, all roles.

Hacking is about learning.

Learn something new, experiment with a new technology, learn a new skill, meet someone new, fail big and learn something from it. If you are a C# developer and you want to learn Python, get on a hack project and experiment with it. If you want to know more about marketing, get on a marketing project or recruit a marketer to join your hack team. If you are from the Windows division and you want to know what it’s like to work in Office, get on a project with someone from Office. Take on a leadership role for a hack project that you wouldn’t normally get to do in your day job and learn from it. Learn how to solder, 3D print, or laser cut. Experiment with machine learning, AI or data science.

When people bring their passions and talents together to work on an idea or learn something new, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. The One Week Hackathon brings Microsoft employees together to innovate, create, and learn by hacking. It is incredibly energizing.

All of that energy, passion and learning taken back into the workplace, that is how we are changing the culture, inspiring employees and customers, and creating value.

Congratulations go out to all of the teams who had ideas and then turned those ideas into action. Whether it was creating something new, improving an existing process, or learning a new skill… this action, experimentation and learning was epic.

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