Judging Hack Manchester

This weekend, Hack Manchester took centre stage at the Manchester Science Festival, hosted at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). 350 participants competed in the annual 24 hour event. It was actually a 25 hour event, as the clocks went back mid-hack. We sponsored the event as a challenge setter, alongside GCHQ, GMP & Ladbible, Cancer Research, Clockwork, Sky, Evestor and Valtech.

The entries across all the challenges were amazing, and I was especially proud of the care and attention that teams gave to our challenge, which was making something to help people experiencing loneliness. We had the most entries to our challenge: 19 in total. For some teams, the reasons for entering our challenge were very personal. Some had been or were lonely themselves, or had a close relative who was lonely.

As our head judge, it was quite the task getting round to all the teams to see what they’d come up with and how they were progressing. Luckily, I was supported by my co-judges Rob Bowley and Emer Coleman. Stephen Foreshew-Cain also stopped by to take a look around.

“Call James” won on the night

Our winners, on the night were The Lovely Lads with their hack, Call James.

Picture of the team from Northcoders who won our challenge at HackManchester
The winning team, photo – HackManchester Blog

They developed an app that uses a supercomputer to connect older people with groups that share their interests. They used technology to solve problems for technologically disconnected people, with a prototype where customers would find a message on the bottom of their Co-op receipt saying, “Interested in meeting some new people? Call James on +44 115 824 4806.” 

We chose this as our winner because the idea really answered our brief. They got their idea to actually work while using some really challenging technology. Also, the team, that came from local tech company NorthCoders had only learned to code just 4 months ago – an amazing achievement.

Runners up

Our runners up were the Nuts Hack for their entry Paltopia and the HackStreet Boys for their Co-op Community Hub. Paltopia is a multiplayer app for lonely children, who are matched up with someone and take care of each other. It’s a safe way for them to interact with someone else, thanks to features like using emojis for chat, and is built around routines, interaction and companionship. 

The Co-op Community Hub caught our attention because it turns the idea of an events website on its head. Instead, it automatically creates events based on the interests of people in a local area. 

Bleating Baskets won Best in Show

The Best in Show prize went to another of the entries responding to our brief.  The Basket Cases won for their Bleating Baskets, which were talking shopping baskets. When customers with baskets walk past each, other the baskets “talk” to each other, making them an ice breaker between the customers, and hopefully starting a conversation between them. 

There were some great ideas on how use digital technologies to make people less lonely, and the hackers came up with some really diverse solutions. Hack Manchester and all the teams did the North proud this weekend and showcased the abundance of digital talent here. 

You can watch the awards show and see more pictures of the day.

Thank you to the team at HackManchester and to everyone that took part.

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Danielle Haugedal-Wilson