AMC Makeathon 2020
Online Hackathon of the American Center at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow: AMC Makeathon 2020. Interview with the Organizers.
From September 5 to September 6, 2020
On September 5-6, 2020, the American Center in Moscow held an online hackathon - AMC Makeathon 2020 - dedicated to solving urban problems using digital technologies. In our interview with the organizers they shared the results of the online hackathon, talked about their experience with Codenrock Platform and announced a new upcoming event - AMC Makeathon 2021 - which will be held on April 24-25:

– Could you tell us about how you came up with the idea of a hackathon. Why did you decide to run a hackathon, and what were your objectives?

– Every year the American Center in Moscow organizes its "makeathon" which comes from the English word "make". It is another name for a hackathon, one of the most popular ways to solve major local and global challenges. Our organization aims to support the development of creative thinking in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) in Russia. The objective of the AMC Makeathon is to involve the non-profit sector and tech professionals in a project that will have social, technological and personal importance for the participants, and that will stimulate their intellectual growth, give them the opportunity to fulfil career ambitions, and win valuable technological prizes.

In 2020, our makeathon kicked off on Moscow City Day, and it’s not a coincidence that as a main theme of the event we chose "Digital Technologies and Urbanism". Despite the fact that Urban Studies is a relatively new field, nowadays it allows for a comprehensive approach to solving urban environmental issues, challenges with sustainable urban development and social distancing during the pandemic, moreover it supports the development of technological solutions that improve the lives of city-dwellers.

– Initially, you preferred hosting offline hackathons. Could you talk about your experience in organizing them?

– Yes, absolutely, before our first experience with an online hackathon on Codenrock Platform, we hosted all challenges offline in the format of a two-day event with a 10-hour access to the venue for our participants. If the participants wanted to continue working on their solutions after venue open hours, they could keep working off-site. At the venue we provided free unlimited WiFi access, charging stations for equipment, a rest area with soft drinks and snacks.

Obviously, offline events are great as they allow you to get to know all the participants personally and the atmosphere is friendly, but at the same time dedicated to work. Also, offline events provide amazing networking opportunities for participants, experts, and jury members. But despite the fact that we switched to online because of the pandemic, we were very pleased with the experience and plan to continue experimenting with different event types.

– Could you share your overall impressions from the online type of the hackathon? Tell us about pros and cons. Did the online hackathon meet your expectations?

– First of all, we decided to hold an online hackathon, since the American Center in Moscow has been closed for public events since mid-March 2020 and all our educational lectures, programs, and conversation clubs have been switched to online.

In general, this new experience of running an online hackathon was very successful. Firstly, we would like to note one of the greatest advantages of holding your event online - participants can participate from anywhere in the country or even from anywhere in the world. Our competition gathered teams from all over Russia! In that regard the online type certainly unites people who probably would not be able to participate in an offline event, being located in different cities. It is also worth mentioning that from the organizational standpoint it is very convenient that the platform provides an opportunity to announce the event. It is like an aggregator for hackathons, and it informs interested professionals about your event.

However, the online type has a number of drawbacks that were minimized in our previous offline contests. First of all, online communication due to its nature is quite impersonal, which sometimes makes it difficult to build communication between participants and organizers as well as between participants themselves. Also the technical side (Internet connection speed, available equipment) sometimes complicates the process or even makes participation for some participants impossible. But due to the fact that recently there has been a greater number of online events, and the platforms for virtual contests are evolving, perhaps in the near future we will no longer face these challenges.

– Are there any solutions from the participants that are being implemented after the event?

– The jury of AMC Makeathon 2020 was represented by the experts in the field of urban studies, accessible environment, and new technologies, and the solutions of a few teams received very positive feedback and sparked their interest. However, at this point we don’t have information about the fate of the projects.

– Could you share your experience using Codenrock Platform?

– Although this platform was completely new to us, we didn’t face major issues while utilizing it. The interface of the platform is quite intuitive, and if we had any questions, the Codenrock team provided us with timely assistance and support throughout preparation and running time. We would also like to note that the platform itself offers a lot of convenient services for organizers, we really appreciated a feature of bulk notifications to participants, as well as simplified moderation of participants and intuitive virtual conferences and meetups.

– Could you tell us a few words about your plans. Are you planning to host more hackathons and competitions? Which type would you choose?

– The American Center holds makeathons annually and also organizes international hackathons. We would love to come back to offline events and run hackathons offline again welcoming participants to our events in person, but we are also glad that the online type opens up new opportunities, allows us to invite more participants from all over the country, unites people and helps to solve current social issues.

Our new online hackathon AMC Makeathon 2021 will take place on April 24-25 in observance of Earth Day. We have already opened registration, and registered participants are now matching into teams on Codenrock Platform.

The registration is open following this link.

– Would you want to share any additional comments, interesting facts or stories related to AMC Makeathon 2020?

– We would like to express our gratitude to the Codenrock team for their help in organizing the event, as well as to thank all the participants for their responsible approach and for such interesting and thoughtful projects.

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