An inside look into 48 hours of ideas, fun and innovation

SICK Solution Hackathon 2023 – as it happened

SICK Solution Hackathon 2023: it lasts 48 hours with 107 participants from all over the world creating innovative solutions to the problems we face in the automation industry, but also in our everyday life. But beyond these pure facts: what actually happens at SICK Solution Hackathon? Who are these participants? How do they work during these 48 hours - what are their challenges, successes and how do they collaborate? This report will take you into the heart of the hackathon and tell you everything that happens there - following two teams of this hackathon: "The Avengers” and “JSON Debugulo”.

The start for endless ideas

24 October 2023, 1pm: the hackathon has just officially started - and Helena Hauter is already thrilled. The reason? She had just listened to the live podcast, recorded in the auditorium of the SIA Academy in Waldkirch, in which young talents like Mackenzie Hill talked about innovation, and Helena knew immediately: "I want her on our team! It's just a gut feeling, but I know it's the right choice - sometimes you have to trust your instincts". So she went straight to Mackenzie and asked her. Mackenzie did not think twice about joining the already established team "JSON Debugulo" along with Emil Ramovic, Daniel Jalel and Andrew Blumensen (all from Denmark). A great new start for the team "JSON Debugulo" (a reference to the file format, but also to the singer, as suggested by a friend of theirs). Helena is no stranger to hackathons: she took part in last year's hackathon - and her team won last year!

Meet the Avengers

3:15 pm: There are also some superheroes at the hackathon, "The Avengers". There are five of them, to be precise: Timer Erez (Israel), Sofie Wiklund (Sweden), Bahar Akbaba (Turkey), Clerance Gomes (India) and Alice Stattin (Sweden) and their goal is to win the hackathon - or at least show some hackathon superpowers! The name of the team came from a friend who did not participate. Now they can do what superheroes always do: combine their powers and achieve greatness!

Talking, discussing, creating

Stay open-minded – and get from six ideas to one project

And team "JSON Debugulo"? "Make it move" was also their favorite challenge - but they had six possible projects in mind. This, of course, is where the hard part began: which one should they choose? Everyone had a favorite project, but they all agreed: let's keep our minds open as long as possible and not reject an idea too early. For them, the inspiration provided by the SICK Solution Hackathon is a great help.
For Helena, it was a reason to come back after her first SICK Solution Hackathon last year: "I just loved it here - my first hackathon (was last year) and it was so intense. After that I decided to attend more hackathons to get more experience. This was great, but I have to say: you won't find a hackathon that inspires you as much as the one at SICK." Mackenzie, who has participated in several US hackathons, agrees: "The coaches here are the best! They come and sit with you and really talk to you about your ideas. And the partners brought their latest technology - you don't get that very often in the US." They work late into the night to sort out their ideas - but the good vibes stayed with this team!

Day 2 - the projects take shape

25 October 2023, 9:43am: Team “The Avengers” had not really been in a good mood at the end of the first day, as Clerance describes on the morning of day 2: "We feel a bit stuck and are not really moving forward with our project." What can you do when nothing is going forward or backward? In the end, they made the right decision, explains Sofie: "We decided to call it a day and get a good night's sleep!" And it did help a lot! From the morning of day 2, their work felt much easier and they finally had a clear vision for their project - just by getting some rest.

Their idea is about fitness. It focuses on the fitness industry, with a personal AI physiotherapist helping with the right technique for different exercises and giving live feedback via images sent over the phone. They are currently working on different parts of their project and preparing their presentation - although not everything is going as planned. "We take two steps forward - and suddenly we take two steps sideways, where we never thought we would go," says Tomer. But Alice sees it in a positive light: "I'm so happy about all the learning here, there's so much going on!"


Working with good vibes

25 October 2023, 2:24pm: Team "JSON Debugulo" has also finally found the project it wants to focus on - and the decision feels good, as Andrew explains: "It has been great to work with this open-minded approach, because that's how innovation works in the end. But in the end, we were happy when we decided which project to choose.” It had been a good moment, like a spark, when everyone suddenly knew: Yes, that's the idea! Immediately, they felt even more connected as a team and the good vibes from day 1 only increased from that point on.

So what is their idea? Team "JSON Debugulo" wants to simplify the process of checking people's mental and physical health using technology such as chat bots, which is especially important in countries with expensive healthcare systems like the US. Their solution can lower the threshold for people who don't feel well and suffer from chronic pain, but don't want to go to the doctor for whatever reason. Their project aims to provide recommendations for these people, whether it is to see a 'real' doctor or to do some exercises or get some other support.

They are now working on the backend, creating an avatar and models, and their work is more focused than it was the day before. Rather than alternating between different ideas, they concentrate on their agreed upon solution while keeping the good vibes going,. As Mackenzie pointed out: "We want to have fun working together.”


Singing on the stage

25 October 2023, 4:33pm: As the afternoon goes on, the workspaces become quieter and quieter. The atmosphere starts to get tense and the participants look very focused. The hack coaches are always nearby… they sit close to the workstations or walk around, always asking if they can help in any way. But this is not the only kind of support offered at the SICK Solution Hackathon; there are two different ways to get help with your pitch presentation by the hack coaches at the hackathon - something that "The Avengers" in particular utilize. They have not only found their flow of work, but they also keep an important rule in mind: the presentation is one of the most important parts of the whole hackathon. That is why they chose both ways to prepare for the pitch session:
  • First, they went to a pitch training, at which hack coaches took a closer look at the project itself. Even though their pitch was not quite ready, the trainer helped them a lot. "The trainer advised us to broaden our scope," says Alice. Before the training, they had limited their product to a specific target group, but now they are thinking bigger.
  • Second, they took the opportunity to go on stage and try out microphones, clickers, etc. and watch their PowerPoint presentation on the big screen. This helped them get a feel for the audience size. Some of their team felt more comfortable on stage, some not so much, and one even felt comfortable good enough to sing.

After the training, the team not only determined who would be presenting their actual pitch (Sofie), but it they also finalized the script for their presentation while gaining a better understanding of the challenges they still had yet to solve. There is a lot of work yet to do, and the team is not sure if they will be sitting there until 3am or if they would be able to get some sleep. Most of the teammates are hoping for the latter, as Sofie points out: "I think we will all perform better if we sleep well tonight!" Sleep or no sleep, they knew they would be working hard for the rest of the evening!


A true crime story: the never-ending search for solutions

7:55pm: For a moment, the evening feels like a true crime story for Team “JSON Debugulo” - one of their team members had disappeared! Luckily, after a frantic 20-minute search, she comes back (she was at dinner) and everything continued as planned. Despite this small moment of panic, their project is progressing very quickly - one reason for this must be their good structure for their collaboration. The “Scrum” method of teamwork is one of their essentials and it helps them to work together, as Emil points out: "We were all working on different parts of the project, so we were able to combine everything in the conversations in between and thus manage the stress much better.”

Leaving in the middle of the night

Make it visible

The final moments leading up to before the pitches is understandingly the worst time to answer any more questions - the final and most important part of the hackathon is coming up! In the end, the pitches will show what the teams have made of the last 48 hours - and whether they can inspire the judges and the audience with their ideas.

11am: The pitches start - and the room is buzzing with energy! Everyone is nervous and excited, exhausted from all the work before, but also curious - how good will the other pitches be? Which one will win? All the teams have fantastic projects, from using technology to improving sleep to reimagining customer service to simplifying logistics. Sofie steps into the ring for “The Avengers” to present their TrAIner, a GenAI Sports Movements Analyzer that cost-effectively supports health, fitness, and safety to combat the effects of an inactive lifestyle. As true superheroes, they want nothing less than to revolutionize fitness and, more importantly, help people become fitter healthier in an easily accessible way.


And the winners are…

3:14pm: After an exciting vote, the winners are finally announced: Team “Eos” won the “Best business idea” for an automated solution for consumers to rent electric chargers and parking spaces, and team “Mind Hackers” won the category “Technical excellence” for using intelligent sensor systems to make the world a healthier place (and to make the perfect basketball shot!). Dr Mats Gökstorp (CEO SICK) congratulates the winners: "It is amazing how much you have achieved in these 48 hours. Your talent is amazing, and it is so inspiring to see you all here !" (Find videos of all the pitches here.)

Work hard, play hard

5:48pm: After the pitch session, the party is in full swing - the motto "work hard, play hard" is probably never more true than at a hackathon. SICK even hired a DJ to provide the right party music while snacks, beer and other drinks were served. And what about "JSON Debugulo" and "The Avengers"? Well, they did not win, but they are anything but disappointed. How did they feel about the pitches? Sofie tells us how nervous she was on stage - but also how good she feels now! It was great fun for her: "I couldn't stop smiling after the pitch - and I smiled through all the other pitches - but they were all great to listen to anyway!"

Her whole team agrees how much they loved all the pitches and how inspired they felt. Looking back, they would not change much about their collaboration. Perhaps they would concentrate more on the business aspect of their idea and start their presentation earlier, although they never ran out of time. But, as Clearance explained, the presentation helped them to focus more on their idea and some small details took more time than expected. They can all see themselves continuing to work on this project - they are all still very happy with the way their collaboration has turned out.


Excited and exhausted

How does team “JSON Debugulo” feel? Helena laughs: "I would say really good. Happy! Excited! Exhausted too! I have so much on my mind right now - but everything is really good!” Emil is particularly proud of how well the collaboration went: "We worked on different parts alone or in smaller groups, but we established regular meetings every few hours to stay on track. It was such a good learning experience discovering how well such a collaboration can work.”

Will they come back to the SICK Solution Hackathon? All give the same answer: Yes! For everyone, this hackathon was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun through learning about technology and meeting great people. And Bahar adds: "It was really fantastic! Believe me: I will do everything to come back next year!"
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