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Terrible Hackathon brings students’ worst ideas to life

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19 July 2021

They say there’s no such thing as a bad idea. A 48 hour Terrible Ideas Hackathon run by University of Auckland Science student Zac Miller-Waugh put that theory to the test. Held at Unleash Space, the vibrant innovation and entrepreneurship hub run by the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), over 100 participants from across Auckland came together to bring 44 of their worst ideas to life.

Ideas created over the course of the weekend included a CNC Tattoo Machine (a functioning tattoo gun hooked up to a 3D printer), Shoes Without Borders (sole-less shoes to help wearers reconnect with the earth), Lindr (a cross between LinkedIn and Tinder, where users’ most important attribute is their net worth), and Spicy Chess (chess pieces that reject certain spots on the board, and shock players at random intervals.)

A participant from a previous hackathon organised by Zac pitched the idea of the Terrible Hackathon to him last year, and Zac was inspired by its ability to be a fun, low stakes ‘gateway’ hackathon for people who may not have experienced one before. He says, “I loved it because I saw potential in it to allow people with lots of hackathon experience to chill out and take a break, and help people who are unfamiliar with hackathons to get involved and give it a go.”

Despite having experience running a number of hackathons during his time at university, organising the Terrible Hackathon for the first time wasn’t without its challenges. “We had literally no idea what to expect,” says Zac. “Would people make death machines? Would there be flamethrowers? Would everyone just ‘get it’ or would we need to spend time exploring the space of bad ideas? The scope of what people could make was crazy, and in the end we decided to just try to build the best framework we could that would allow for complete flexibility during the weekend as needed.”

Zac was supported through the process of creating Terrible Hack by staff from CIE, who helped him develop the space to be as creativity-inducing as possible, while still being safe. A CIE Creative Technologist was on standby throughout the hackathon to help participants navigate the maker space and oversee health and safety. Unleash Space Manager Sean Kelly says “We loved the concept of the Terrible Hack to make technology fun to approach and less intimidating as there were no consequences to getting a project wrong. Terrible Hack has introduced a whole new group of people to Unleash Space, who we will keep in touch with to invite back to develop new skills.”

Months of preparations from Zac and his team paid off, culminating in a fast-paced weekend full of creativity, collaboration, and learning through failure. He says, “At any point in the weekend, you could walk around Unleash Space and soak in this amazing electric energy of creativity. It was fantastic to be a part of this, as no matter which team you bumped into something cool or crazy was going on.”

Amber, a postgraduate Science student at the University of Auckland, says “My biggest highlight from the hackathon was getting to see the wide variety of projects people made. The unlimited creativity was awesome.” Feedback from other participants was equally positive, with a highlight for many being the presentations of ideas at the end of the hackathon, and the feeling of “Wow, we actually built that!” 

Zac is already looking forward to putting his learnings towards an even bigger and better Terrible Hackathon next year. He says, “I love the fact that there was literally no way to fail – from teams using advanced robotics to duct taping cardboard to feet, everyone was able to participate and contribute something creative to the mix. I think there’s a lot to be said about a hackathon that strips down the idea of creating to its core.”

Velocity Team 2020
Velocity Team 2020

social media

19 July 2021

They say there’s no such thing as a bad idea. A 48 hour Terrible Ideas Hackathon run by University of Auckland Science student Zac Miller-Waugh put that theory to the test. Held at Unleash Space, the vibrant innovation and entrepreneurship hub run by the University of Auckland Business School’s Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), over 100 participants from across Auckland came together to bring 44 of their worst ideas to life.

Ideas created over the course of the weekend included a CNC Tattoo Machine (a functioning tattoo gun hooked up to a 3D printer), Shoes Without Borders (sole-less shoes to help wearers reconnect with the earth), Lindr (a cross between LinkedIn and Tinder, where users’ most important attribute is their net worth), and Spicy Chess (chess pieces that reject certain spots on the board, and shock players at random intervals.)

A participant from a previous hackathon organised by Zac pitched the idea of the Terrible Hackathon to him last year, and Zac was inspired by its ability to be a fun, low stakes ‘gateway’ hackathon for people who may not have experienced one before. He says, “I loved it because I saw potential in it to allow people with lots of hackathon experience to chill out and take a break, and help people who are unfamiliar with hackathons to get involved and give it a go.”

Despite having experience running a number of hackathons during his time at university, organising the Terrible Hackathon for the first time wasn’t without its challenges. “We had literally no idea what to expect,” says Zac. “Would people make death machines? Would there be flamethrowers? Would everyone just ‘get it’ or would we need to spend time exploring the space of bad ideas? The scope of what people could make was crazy, and in the end we decided to just try to build the best framework we could that would allow for complete flexibility during the weekend as needed.”

Zac was supported through the process of creating Terrible Hack by staff from CIE, who helped him develop the space to be as creativity-inducing as possible, while still being safe. A CIE Creative Technologist was on standby throughout the hackathon to help participants navigate the maker space and oversee health and safety. Unleash Space Manager Sean Kelly says “We loved the concept of the Terrible Hack to make technology fun to approach and less intimidating as there were no consequences to getting a project wrong. Terrible Hack has introduced a whole new group of people to Unleash Space, who we will keep in touch with to invite back to develop new skills.”

Months of preparations from Zac and his team paid off, culminating in a fast-paced weekend full of creativity, collaboration, and learning through failure. He says, “At any point in the weekend, you could walk around Unleash Space and soak in this amazing electric energy of creativity. It was fantastic to be a part of this, as no matter which team you bumped into something cool or crazy was going on.”

Amber, a postgraduate Science student at the University of Auckland, says “My biggest highlight from the hackathon was getting to see the wide variety of projects people made. The unlimited creativity was awesome.” Feedback from other participants was equally positive, with a highlight for many being the presentations of ideas at the end of the hackathon, and the feeling of “Wow, we actually built that!” 

Zac is already looking forward to putting his learnings towards an even bigger and better Terrible Hackathon next year. He says, “I love the fact that there was literally no way to fail – from teams using advanced robotics to duct taping cardboard to feet, everyone was able to participate and contribute something creative to the mix. I think there’s a lot to be said about a hackathon that strips down the idea of creating to its core.”


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