“Many of us at Transloadit are in lockdown in one form or another. While we worry about COVID-19 and sometimes lose focus, the team is comitted to 'business as usual' as much as possible. Work allows for some welcome distraction, and we also feel the best thing to do in order to not worsen economic downturn, is for those able, to continue to create value. That is why we, as an already remote and distributed team, will continue to push out fixes, updates, features, as well as blog posts such as this one. ”— Tim & Kev

We'd like to give you an inside look at a fun event we took part in between the 29th of February and 1st of March: Hack the Burgh, a hackathon in the Major League Hacking circuit. It took place in my hometown of Edinburgh and Transloadit was there as a sponsor.

It was the sixth year for the Hack the Burgh team and they’ve grown a lot since their humble beginnings. This year, they brought in more than 200 participants for a 24-hour hackathon focused on bringing the tech industry together by providing a space for participating students to compete to create the most impressive projects.

Around the world

With everybody besides Charlie traveling to attend the event, Marius and Elena had a couple of days to settle in and enjoy some of what Scotland has to offer. Elena, flying in from Panama, was already well-acquainted with Edinburgh, having previously studied in the city. She spent her time well by visiting old friends and some of Edinburgh's best bars, and enjoying some day trips.

Victoria Street Photo of Victoria Street from Elena

Marius flew in from Germany to stay at the newly established Yotel - Edinburgh's first “smart” hotel aiming to invigorate the hotel experience with clever use of technology and design. A fitting place for a software engineer. Marius' pre-event plans included having not-so-healthy food, visiting historic landmarks and indulging in some of Scotland’s finest drinks. At one point, he even went up Arthur Seat, an extinct volcano in the center of the city, to appreciate the spectacular landscape and take in the extra cold air, high winds, and rain.

Arthur Seat Path Marius embracing the Scottish landscape

I, on the other hand, had to travel no more than ten minutes to the venue, sparing me from jet lag or any other traveling inconveniences Elena or Marius had to deal with. Being a native Scotsman meant I also got to act as a sort of Tripadvisor for Marius, letting him know what wasn't to be missed when visiting Edinburgh - such as visiting a local distillery.

Dawn of the first day

We showed up early on Saturday morning to get everything ready. Elena, being the powerhouse she is when it comes to hackathons, had already set up our panel before we were due to arrive. Champion. We all got acquainted and bonded over our fancy new company shirts, :sparkles: before heading to the opening ceremony. The ceremony started with a presentation from the event organizers outlining the goal of the event, then each sponsor took to the stage, speaking briefly about their company and their reason for attending the event.

When our time came to take the stage, Marius delivered an enthusiastic and engaging talk about what we do over here at Transloadit, and outlined our contest for the event. The task was simple: integrate your project with Transloadit’s API for file uploading and processing, and maybe win a snazzy prize :money_with_wings:

Marius presenting at the opening ceremony Marius presenting at the opening Ceremony

It's go time

With everyone in high spirits, it was kick-off time. Hackers with laptop in hand were ready to go. The organizers sounded the metaphorical alarm horn and the room was soon filled with keyboard clicking at previously unimaginable levels of decibel.

While the hackers worked their magic, Marius, Elena and I were situated at the Transloadit Q&A panel. It was our job to inform people about the type of services we offer at Transloadit, answer questions about working remotely and help the hackers out with integrating the Transloadit API into their projects. Our panel saw some good traffic and geeky talks were enjoyed by many!

Questions and answers

Marius also presented a live demo at the event, in which he built a small app that uses Transloadit to generate thumbnails. The live element of his demo consisted of creating a Template for generating the thumbnails then adding the Uppy component to the app. If you want to learn more about the demo, you can check it out on Marius' GitHub!

Marius presenting live demo Marius' live demo

Winding down

When we weren’t doing our deeds as representatives of Transloadit, we were made to feel right at home. The staff treated us to breakfast, lunch and dinner, accompanied by plenty of Scotland's most esteemed beverage, Irn Bru, to wash it down. Marius, who tried it for the first time, was especially taken with our national pride and joy. He even sent us a photo of him enjoying one more after the event was over! Truly embracing the culture.

With all that sitting, eating and drinking, it was a good thing the event organizers thought of a way to get everyone off their feet: a table tennis setup! This turned out to be a great source of enjoyment for everyone in attendance, and Marius and I jumped at it the first chance we got. I, however, had greatly underestimated my German opponent and am sad to report that team Scotland got swiftly and resolutely beaten into submission.

Marius and Charlie playing table tennis Before Charlie's defeat

End game

Sunday rolled around after a long day and night of hacking. When we showed up to the event bright and early, we were delighted to find a waffle van awaiting us outside :yum: The sleep-deprived hackers were eager to finalize their projects and present what they had come up with.

Waffle Waffle time!

Much like the day before, we spent the first hours on Sunday helping out where we could and drinking as much free coffee as humanly possible. Before long, the 24-hour hacking period came to a close and it was time for the judging to start. Each team who participated in our challenge prepared a presentation to show us their creation. We saw some outstanding pieces of work, but eventually, we all settled on the one we found to be the most impressive in terms of technical complexity, creativity, and polish.

We chose EyeTales, an application developed by Albert Suarez, Adrià Cabeza, and Joel Miarons, who created a tool for the visually impaired. Their app used a camera to rapidly capture images of the surroundings, and then described them with audio to the user. The team let us try a live test of the application, and having it read out phrases such as “a woman is sitting on a couch” and “a man is walking towards you”, all in real-time, left us ecstatic.

Adrià related his experience using Transloadit within this project:

“As the person who managed integrating with the Transloadit API, it was incredibly easy to implement it into our project. Transloadit was really important because we used its object detection solution in order to know which objects surround us and be able to generate sentences. Visually impaired people could now point their phone at anything, and hear what surrounds them.”

Mar sin leat - (Scottish Gaelic for farewell)

After judging, it was time to take our seats for the closing ceremony. The event organizers started with a special thanks to everyone who attended and showed a recap video. Then the time came for handing out the awards. Marius and I went on stage to reveal the winner of our challenge. Congrats again to the team behind EyeTales! :medal:

contest winners Charlie and Marius presenting the creators of EyeTales their award

Then, it was the event organizers' turn to hand out some awards. After we went through vital categories such as “best meme” and “winner of planking contest”, the prize was handed out for “best hack”, based on every submission from the event. This also meant the event had come to an end - time for us to pack up and say goodbye to one another. Elena was traveling to London, Marius went to check some more items of his Scotland bucket list, while I had some other work to attend to.

Transloadians Charlie, Elena and Marius getting the traditional selfie in

Fortunately, Marius was spending a couple more days in Edinburgh, so we had the opportunity to meet up one last time. Per Marius' special request, we caught up with each other at a local pie shop that I wasn't even aware existed. The tables had truly turned. Not only had Marius fully embraced Irn Bru, now he was also showing me around! Maybe it was time he got back to Germany, before he turned into more of a Scotsman than myself…

banner getting the better of us Marius and Charlie working off some of the excess food weight from the event

We would like to thank everyone who helped make Hack the Burgh possible and for giving us such an amazing time while we were there. It was an excellent opportunity to get to know each other outside of our usual Slack channels. We also thank all the students for their hard work and creativity during the event. Here's to the next hackathon or meet-up!