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A week ago today, me and 6 of my colleagues from the Co Operative Learning (Vocational Training) Program in Ireland flew out to Germany to take part in the Business Innovation and IT Mobile App Competition. The event was organized and hosted by the SAP University Alliances Team at SAP’s headquarters in Walldorf. This was my first time attending a hackathon type event, and I found it a very enjoyable and worthwhile experience.

The 32 hour event began with the reveal of the topic, which was to make an app which increased employee productivity. We were then given an introduction to Design Thinking, and this is probably the most important thing that I took away from this event. It focuses around finding the right target audience for your app, and making sure that your solution meets their needs. First we interviewed our target audience to see what they were looking for in a mobile application. Then we returned to the drawing board and began the creative process of deciding what our app would be. Here we created low fidelity mockups and discussed what functionality to include in our app. We then returned to our target audience to see if we were onto a winner with our app, or if revisions had to be made to our initial prototype.

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We were than given a crash course on SAP UI5 which was the language of choice for this event. It was here that the real fun started, as only one member from our team had experience using this technology. From this point, we had 24 hours left to get to grips with this technology and take our app from the mockup stage to a working prototype stage.  As a team, we coded through the night, and with the help of the dedicated and friendly technology mentors, we got to grips with UI5 and created a functional version of our app.

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I found this a great way learn a new technology, as after just 24 hours, I have a good concept of how to create apps using UI5. I feel that I learned more from this approach to learning a new language than I would have in a week on my own.

Throughout the hackathon, I also met a lot of like-minded people, as we had the chance to gel and network with each other over the 32 hour period. The group was made up of a diverse group of people from different backgrounds with different skills and opinions that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Everyone was so friendly and helpful, and we managed to keep each other motivated and on track, which was a great help at 5am, when your code was broken and your app wouldn’t run!

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The next day, each group was given the chance to present their app in front of the panel of judges and everyone involved in the event. I found this interesting, especially when we got to see what the other groups came up with in the 32 hour time frame.

Overall, I really enjoyed the week and as I learned a lot that I can take back with me to other projects that I do in the future. I would highly recommend taking part in a hackathon event as it is a great chance to meet new people, develop new skills and challenge yourself.

Thanks to the SAP University Alliances team and all other organizers that made this event such a success and made sure we had everything we needed to enjoy our time in Germany.

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