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Develop and keep tech-talent in Kristiansand: Hack4Universitetsbyen

24 October 2017

Kristiansand is tempting students to explore their own skills and become entrepreneurs. As part of GenY City!, project attempting to develop, attract and keep generation Y in the region, the Municipality of Kristiansand hosted a hackathon together with student organizations from our local ULG group and a consulting firm. A hackathon is according to Wikipedia “an event when programmers meet to do collaborative computer programming”, often limited on time and with a goal to create usable software.

The theme for the hackathon held in Kristiansand in February was “University City”, where the competitors were challenged to use open data to make digital solutions for the “University City Kristiansand”. Open data could be traffic data, weather data, information about flights, etc. It consists of structured information, made available to be read and interpreted by both computers and humans. This way data can be arranged and put together in new ways, providing new information that can be used to develop products and services. On the occasion of the hackathon, Municipality of Kristiansand also provided some previously unavailable data sets for the students to use. The participants could also use other open data from other organizations and they also got access to data from Innovation Norway and Visit Norway.

Almost 30 students from University of Agder and Noroff, divided into 6 teams, were gathered for 24 hours at CoWorx, a local coworking space.  The event started with an inspirational presentation from Fædrelandsvennen (Schibsted) about digital development in the media industry. The students were also introduced to local businesses and the ICT sector in the region. Even a couple open positions were announced, which seemed to trigger the motivation even more. Highly skilled programmers from Egde Consulting were available at all time to help the students. This way, also relationships between the consultants and students were made. Only small interruptions with pizza, night food and breakfast (and a little bit of sleep for a few) during the 24 hours, the students worked hard from start to end. This setting created a unique bond between the students and everyone else involved. When the time was up, the students got to pitch their idea in front of a panel and the professional developers were impressed by the level of the coding. The students also said it was exciting to use real data and work intensively with a task.

Hosting a hackathon with students and local businesses trigger and develop the students’ skills, but more importantly introduce them to each other and shows that the region has desirable jobs after the students graduate!