Synergism at Play: The Smartbridge Hackathon

It’s not often you get to witness the culmination of experience, skills, and interconnectedness first hand, but when you do, immerse yourself in it. There’s nothing quite like it.

Coming off a rare Hackathon event at Smartbridge, many have an opinion on the matter. What was once a fairly common occurrence had not been seen here for years. This past week, however, things changed. We went back to our roots and with it, we learned quite a bit about ourselves, to say the least. As part of this event, nearly 80% of the company participated enthusiastically in taking on this year’s challenge; developing a working prototype in a 12 hour period. This is the take on our experience from the ERP (JD Edwards) Monitoring Tool team.

Resistance to change

The Task

As part of a broader initiative, the largest team at the event had the challenge of developing a working application prototype that would allow companies/users to monitor their environments to ensure business operability. The challenge as a whole required the team to be split into subteams that focused on the following:

  • User Interface Development
  • Database Design and Administration
  • CNC Administration

Given just 12 hours for the Hackathon, the team was set to develop an application that to be fair was perhaps too large in terms of scope for such an event. Yet, the teams took this challenge in stride.

In a competitive, results driven world, we often forget about human connection. It can quite often be the difference between the successful and extraordinary.

The Execution

With the team now partitioned, tasks and activities determined and resources assigned, the Hackathon had officially begun. Over the next few hours, each member delved deeply into the task ahead. On any typical Friday afternoon, your ears would be filled with an array of sounds not exclusive to that of laughter, intense yet jovial collaborations, and even the occasional cracks of table tennis balls as they’d whizz across the table in the rest area. This day, however, was met with another kind of phenomenon; endless clicking and clacking sounds of typing and mice abound.

With heads down and clear focus, good progress was made but sooner or later, the challenges began to arise. Team members of various technical backgrounds began to comingle in hopes of solving important issues that were crucial for hitting the defined objectives. The sounds began to shift towards more collaborative yet driven exchanges which would ultimately set the tone for the rest of the event.

Challenges Faced

As is the norm with a technological endeavor, especially in a Hackathon setting, challenges inevitably rise regardless of size and impact. This event was no exception. Amongst some of these challenges were the following:

  • Ambitious Scope

    An ambitious scope is key in doing big things. In this case however, the scope was perhaps too ambitious with the given challenges and time constraints. A smaller scope would have allowed us to accomplish more with the number of resources at hand.

  • Resources. Resources. Resources.

    Sure numbers are helpful but truly, resources with the right skills are most important. Due to a lack in this area, certain skills such as Java Development hindered the true construction of key application features.

  • Move Forward Always

    Its human nature to want to overcome challenges. However, given the nature of the event, time was of utmost importance. In such situations, we focused too much on the need to overcome issues or implement certain features. Due to this, valuable time was lost that could have been better spent elsewhere. In times like these, it’s important to reprioritize, make a decision and move forward.

  • Preparation: The Difference Maker

    Preparation is key in any given situation. It seems obvious, yes but it is especially the case during a time-based event. A key challenge and use of time for several resources was creating and preparing data needed to test features that were developed. In this case, resources can either be designated during the event or the data could’ve been made available beforehand. Whether it’s having data prepped or having the working access, permissions and equipment, preparation would make the difference in what was completed and what more could’ve been executed.

Commitment curve

The Teams: Ideation


Despite the challenges, issues, and disappointments, you’d notice something special in that environment: a true sense of purpose. Here they were, individuals of varied cultures, races, experiences, skills, mentalities, and personalities, coming together as one with a common goal. The sentiment below pretty much sums up what was experienced.

“We were all working on the common goal instead of our independent tasks. My priorities became our priorities and subsequently, the project made more progress in 12 hours then it would in months.”

– Hackathon Participant

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