| Hackathon

“Hack-a-bot” Hackathon Review: Biggest ever Darmstadt hackathon

When the doors to the Hack-a-bot hackathon at the new Innovation Center in Darmstadt opened at 9am on June 15th, nobody could have expected the outstanding variety and quality of the ideas that would emerge.

Run in cooperation with Microsoft and the University Medical Clinic of Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), over 100 invited students, industry experts, managers and entrepreneurs were welcomed by Matthias Schirrmacher, Program Lead Internal Digitalization and sponsor of the event. He explained the reasoning behind the hackathon: the chance to build technology leadership and foster digitalization in real use-cases for potential further development.

Event moderator Janik Weigel from the Innovation Center then closed the kick-off by providing an overview of the prizes: 1000€ + X-Box OneX + a special prize for the winning teams in each of the following hackathon categories:

  • All-In-One Travel Bot
  • Meeting Assistant
  • Smart Site Darmstadt
  • Smart Voice Database Queries
  • Healthcare Bot

Following a workshop on Microsoft Azure, which participants would use to build their chatbot applications, teams were formed, challenges were accepted, and the innovators moved to the Makerspace – a specially designed area on the top floor of the Innovation Center used for developing prototypes. The teams were given until 6pm to ideate on how best to tackle their chosen challenges, and after a BBQ to feed the creative process even further, the teams really got to work. Mentors were always on hand to help teams achieve the best possible results and, before long, the first prototypes were being built.

As Friday tuned into Saturday, pizza and energy drinks kept the teams going through the night, before lunchtime brought the first deadline of the event – the code freeze at 1pm. The teams then had an hour to work on their final 6-minute pitches to a distinguished panel of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt managers, Microsoft and UKSH representatives, as well as academia. Overwhelmed by the overall quality of the solutions delivered, the jury still had to make their decisions and so, at the end of a tough yet inspiring 24 hours, the five winning teams were announced:

  • All-In-One Travel Bot: “Lord of the expenses” – Providing one easy-to-use interface to all travel related tools, including image recognition for receipts
  • Meeting Assistant: “Meet Me” – An intelligent and Outlook-integrated bot for automatically scheduling meetings with many participants
  • Smart Site Darmstadt: “The valuable commute experience” – Engage employees on their commute to work with a tailored and gamified app, reducing stress and saving CO2
  • Smart Voice Database Queries: “Digi.Doc” - The smart health assistant with various use cases for improved patient comfort
  • Healthcare Bot: “Automatic Triage in Mass Casualty Situations” – Using drones to classify patients in an emergency setting using remote data collection tools.

Moreover, the winning pitched project “Lord of the expenses” will be implemented at our company. It showed a prototype, which automates the process of expense reporting by leveraging image recognition, data integration from multiple sources and a concierge chatbot to speed up and ease this post business trip pain!

We would like to thank all the partners and everyone else involved for making the biggest Hackathon at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt yet such an enormous success! Now, you can watch the video to experience the event for yourself!