Zuhlke Mentor for Hack Manchester 2016

14 November 2016
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Reading time: 4 minutes

Two weeks ago Hack Manchester closed out the Manchester Science Festival 2016 at the Museum of Science and Industry. Over 70 teams took part in the 24-hour event, 25 if you count the extra hour gained because the clocks went back.  Each team chose to take on one of the challenges set by the events sponsors which included the Co-op, GCHQ, GMP, Cancer Research, Clockwork, Sky and Evestor (see the full list here). To win required a compelling (and working!) solution together with a video summarising what had been achieved.

Zuhlke sponsored the event by providing mentors; we felt confident we could add value given the breadth and depth of skills we have, Mike gives a great overview of us here.

10 Zuhlke engineers supported the hack. Our task was to provide support for the whole event and we decided internally to make sure there were a minimum of 2 people available to help at any point throughout the 25-hour period.

As the afternoon drew to a close we were starting to find people coming to us and asking for our opinion about which technologies and API’s might be best suited to the particular challenges they had decided to take on, in some cases they asked us which challenges we thought they should take up!

We had to do some expectation setting, it was clear that some of the teams were trying to take on too much given the limited time frame they were working toward and we had to be the voice of reason for a couple of teams. One of our engineers also pointed out to a few teams that integrating all the various parts of their solutions together first, before trying to add more features may save them a lot of pain in the long run.

As the night shift started and the bar opened it was probably inevitable that we started to get a little busier…. a number of simple MySQL queries, some jQuery syntax questions and a rendition of ‘Bonnie Tyler’ by Gemma could only mean it was nearing midnight. It was inevitable that people’s concentration on coding would start to waver and attention moved onto other things.


As our 2 engineers arrived for the night shift there were some questions about collating the results of a twitter and SQL query together in JavaScript and one team were struggling with Google Firebase and how users were stored in their db. By 6am it was mainly tired typo’s and some IP address issues left to solve although there was an Angular Maps plugin issue that needed looking into. Thankfully our help didn’t go unnoticed….


As the morning shift started there was an interesting question about blob storage in browsers from people wanting to capture video, a question about connecting an apache2 server to their node JS Servers and some minor JavaScript and CSS issues. A PHP, Laravel question came up on Sunday morning alongside a really important 2d animation question:

Team: “Can you help us with 2d animation?”

Zuhlke: “what technology are you using?”

Team: “no, I mean we can’t draw!!”

As the coding neared completion it was more a case of standing back and admiring what the teams had managed to accomplish in such a short space of time. With 1 hour left the teams focus had resumed and everyone who was still there was trying to put finishing touches to their solutions or was sleeping on their desks. Here is a list of all the hacks, my hat goes off to all the judges who decided on winner’s as there were so many interesting solutions for each challenge I am not sure how I would have decided.


From Left to Right (Phil Hudson, Jan Herkelrath, Mike Hogg, Johnathan Rothwell)

A big thank you must go out to all the Zuhlke mentors for volunteering and also to the Hack Manchester team for organising such a great event. Everyone I spoke to throughout the weekend said how much they had enjoyed the event and how well organised it was. It was a great way for us to get involved and support the Manchester tech community and certainly one we enjoyed being a part of. Who knows maybe next year we might even take part………

We are hiring in Manchester, please take a look at our current vacancies.


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