SACLC Staged An Autistic-Themed Hackathon

This month, we decided to embark upon our most ambitious undertaking to date: running – to our knowledge – the world’s first hackathon to be run by a Lions Club![1]

Being an autistic-themed Lions Club, it was only fitting that our hackathon had an autistic theme. Equally fitting was the name we gave our little endeavour – Hacktistic – which we define as “pure awesomeness”.

For those of you not familiar with what a hackathon is, think of it as a “brainstorming competition”, in which teams come together to come up with creative solutions – or “hacks” – to various problems, and then, much like a marathon, work together over a short, but intense period of time to choose the best solution and come up with a presentation to convince judges that their answer is the best one.

And so, at the end of April, we put out the call on Eventbrite. We cast our net far and wide. We emailed. We posted on our socials. We had but one question to ask:

“How can we improve the quality of life for autistic people?”

This is the question that we at SACLC ask ourselves constantly. But we were seeking answers from outside the club.

36 people responded to the call. Of the 36 that signed up, ultimately 16 people, from which five teams were formed, would give us five answers to that question.

The hackathon began in earnest on the 21st of May at the information session held online over Zoom videoconferencing, where teams were formed and the challenge was set. Then our contestants were invited to our specially-prepared Discord server, where they could discuss their ideas via voice and text-based chat, as well as seek help from our specially-selected mentors, who were all too happy to give advice when needed. This went on for about a week.

The hackathon culminated on the 27th of May with the presentations, also held over Zoom, which were judged by a panel of industry experts including Jacob Dunk, a software developer and team leader (who is also autistic), as well as autistic recruitment agency head (and previous SACLC presenter), Mike Tozer, and autistic-themed videogame proprietor, Sinay Salomon.

Our teams came up with the following answers:

  • Gibberish‘s autistic social networking app;
  • Plane and Simple‘s flight based educational game for young children;
  • Motley Crew of Eccentrics‘ gamified task scheduler, which won 3rd place and $600;
  • Liquid Maze‘s machine learning based sarcasm and social context detector, which won 2nd place and $900;
  • TalkToMe‘s application that “simulates real life situations to help autistic people with communication issues to practice, rehearse and be confident”, which the judges deemed worthy of the top prize of $1500.

Congratulations to all of our contestants for going through the hackathon ideation process and having the courage to present your amazing ideas. Gratitude aplenty to our organisers, mentors and judges for all of your hard work. Special thanks to our sponsor, WiseTech Global, and our community partner, Hackathons Australia, without whom Hacktistic would not have been possible.

Here’s hoping that truly great things spring forth from this hackathon!

If you would like to watch the presentations, the video is right here 🙂

[1] We actually don’t know if this is true or not. A cursory search found an activity that was called a ‘hackathon’ that was sponsored by a Lions Club, but no hackathons that were run by a Lions Club. We’d be delighted if a representative from a Lions Club found this page, contacted us and proved – with evidence – that we are wrong and that they were first!

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