Coding, teamwork, and a winning project: my RGU Hack experience


RGU Hack, the School of Computing‘s annual Hackathon, is coming back on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 February! Students from any college or university are invited to showcase their digital skills in this 24-hour challenge supported by a wealth of industry sponsors.

Computer Science student Jordan Newlands shares with us his experience of participating in last year’s hackathon and the many benefits he gained from it, including a free trip to France!

Why did you take part in the RGU Hack?

Participating in the hackathon was all about wanting that hands-on experience and, I’ll admit, the lure of having some fun. Oh, and there were rumours about free pizza, which might have sweetened the deal a bit!

The opportunity to explore the sponsors’ stands was an added perk. Their genuine interest in my field of study and the enticing freebies, including a wireless charger, highlighter, and lens cleaner from Core 29, Aize, and Leonardo, still sits on my desk. 

What was the highlight of your hackathon experience?

The biggest highlight and most memorable moment was definitely the shock of hearing our team announced as the winner of our chosen challenge. But looking back retroactively, the true highlight of the hack was the journey that followed.

We were awarded a stipend to further develop our project over the summer, and had the opportunity to go on a all-expenses-paid trip to Bourg-en-Bresse, France to participate in another Hackathon. These experiences were unexpected yet immensely gratifying, opening doors to industry connections, personal growth, and unforgettable memories.

In true hackathon style, our solution was completely broken just 15 minutes before submission time which really got the adrenaline pumping. Thankfully, we were not left without support. One of the student mentors (cheers Reece!) suggested a quick and ugly yet effective fix to our issue. There is simply no way to explain the feeling of relief our team collectively felt. In hindsight, the Hackathon was not just about winning but the profound impact it had on my overall university experience and future opportunities.

RGU Hack 2023

How do you think the experience benefitted you?

There were a multitude of benefits to me attending the hackathon last year aside from the tangible prizes. The greatest of which was undoubtedly the boost in confidence I walked away with. Given it was my first time attending a hackathon, I wasn’t sure what to expect and could not have dreamed of winning anything.

It truly challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, learning a brand new 3D web graphic library and iterating through ideas quickly. It is only through hands-on participation in a time-limited environment that skills such as critical thinking, communication, and time management are truly put to the test.

As someone who usually likes to be left alone to get on with things, delegating tasks and relying on my team members was especially difficult. However, this experience allowed me to really appreciate the value of collaboration and collective problem-solving.

Academically, the Hackathon complemented my classroom learning by providing practical, real-world experience that deepened my understanding of key concepts, helping to bridge the gap between theory and practice. I additionally had the opportunity to grow and expand my professional network through chatting with sponsors and learning about the technologies and experience they search for in students in search of placement and graduate opportunities. Many of the people I spoke to were themselves graduates of RGU and spoke very highly of their own hackathon experience.

The experience pushed me to step up as the President of the Computing Society to oversee the organisation of another hack this year, taking place on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 February. I look forward to seeing you all there!

Why do you think students should participate in this year’s RGU Hack?

To students contemplating participation in this year’s RGU Hack, my words of wisdom would be to stop contemplating and get yourself registered! If you have doubts, I would highly encourage you to talk to people who attended last year. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to myself or anyone from the Computing Society committee.

I personally had little to no intentions of going until one of my lecturers spoke so positively and enthusiastically about the event at the end of a class (thanks Ross!). I dread to think what I would have missed out on otherwise.

Regardless of your level of coding experience, there is a definitely place for you at the hackathon. The beauty of these events lies in their inclusivity and diversity of perspectives. Whether you’re a seasoned coder or a complete novice, your unique skills and insights are invaluable contributions to the collective effort.

The focus of the hackathon is not just about coding; it’s about creativity, innovation, and how your solution addresses the problem. Don’t let self-doubt hold you back like it almost did me, seize the opportunity and immerse yourself in the unique experience.

To truly excel at the RGU Hack, participants must embody a rich tapestry of values reflective of RGU’s core ethos: curiosity, authenticity, approachability, collaboration, ambition, respectfulness, and equality. If you think that sounds like you, register now!

Jordan Newlands

For more information about this year’s RGU Hack and to register, please visit our webpage!

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