Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

#AthenaHack21 – an experience like no other!

April 15, 2021

The excitement of working with innovative technologies, the challenge of tackling a real-world problem and the adrenaline of competing against other teams to win the grand prize, all within forty-eight hours! For those of you who have taken part in hackathons before, these feelings (potentially along with being sleepless but full of pizza and caffeine) will be all too familiar. For those of you who are yet to experience the thrill of a hackathon, now’s your chance!

On Friday 16th April 2021, the Athena Hackathon will kick-off its first ever virtual hack. The Athena Hackathon is the largest hack in the UK exclusively for individuals who identify as female or non-binary and I feel proud to say that Cisco are the primary sponsors for this event. Hackathons are a fantastic way to encourage innovation but they’re an even better way of encouraging bravery and talent. With access to cutting-edge technology, nothing to lose (and a £5000 prize up for grabs!), this really is a fantastic space to get creative and daring with your solutions!

In 2019, hackers tackled one of the largest environmental issues around the globe – plastic in our oceans. There were workshops, panel discussions and honest conversations about not being a male in the IT industry. With the hack itself, it’s an understatement to say there was a multitude of incredible ideas bought to life! The winning team introduced the concept of boosting plastic bag recycling and reusing through a better use of incentives. By hiring out bags instead, customers would be far more motivated to return their bags and get their deposit back. Backed with multiple technologies, what a fantastic solution it was!

Cisco proposed the theme of Circular Economy for Athena Hackathon 2021 for several reasons. Firstly, it’s a pretty huge topic right now! Being conscious of how much materials can be reused and repurposed before heading out to the dump yard is more than essential and this conversation is top of mind for almost all organisations. Secondly, we’re already far too familiar with the notion of taking, making and wasting resources. It’s time to change that linear lifespan and change it into something more circular, leaving as little room as possible for wastage or the need for new raw materials.

By meeting other like-minded individuals, hackathons present an opportunity to develop your skills and knowledge from those around you. The two festival weeks wrapped around the hack weekend are a great example of this! Beginning Monday 12th April, Cisco and the additional sponsors are running a selection of workshops, panel discussions and webinars for Athena hackers to really strengthen the self-development. So, what can you expect to see? Well, we’ll be hosting a whole selection of sessions ranging from technical workshops that introduce serverless technology and Artificial Intelligence, to more open and honest discussions on female/non-binary journeys within the IT industry. Whether the stereotypical coding ninja role would be your dream, or whether you prefer a less technical lens when surrounding yourself with the latest gadgets, there’s definitely something for you.

I couldn’t sum up the thrill that comes from the intense, incredibly creative but very fun forty-eight hours that make up the hack in one simple blog. Add in the excitement of the festival weeks and I’m almost lost for words…but I would narrow down the experience to remarkable solutions, mind-blowing talent and usually some pretty great food.

Stay tuned to see winning solutions and event highlights!

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