I would like to share my experiences partaking in Bloomberg’s recent hackathon at Virginia Tech. A couple of representatives and coders from Bloomberg came all the way to Blacksburg to talk about machine learning and to host a little competition.
I wasn’t really interested at first. Spending my Friday and Saturday, coding above the on-campus SUBWAY (eat fresh) wasn’t a very attractive use of my time. I’m *Gildedguy*; I have a game to make!
My two roommates were quite determined to go. I believe their main motivations were to get in contact with some of the Bloomberg rep’s, since they had applied online earlier.
But honestly, I’ve always wanted to go to a hackathon, so a small event on campus on a relatively empty weekend was perfect.
So on a Friday afternoon, the three of us grabbed our laptops and resigned the next 17 hours to this little coding marathon. Well actually, we didn’t completely commit ourselves to the event. We would’ve probably left IF:
- The theme/requirement was extremely boring
- The theme/requirement was extremely hard
- The food was bad
- The prize was bad
So we were ready to bail in case any of these conditions were met. Fortunately that didn’t happen.
I didn’t really get it at first.
For the first 10 minutes, they talked about code. A lot. At the very start, they threw technical details at us. Perhaps our team arrived after an “informational primer”, but it seemed like this hackathon was looking to be quite boring…
Hmm, maybe I should leav…
“…and there will be a secondary prize given to the team with the best USER INTERFACE.”
Oh okay. Now I have to compete.
(Pictures replaced to protect true identities)
It seemed like there was ample space for all the teams to do their thing. The Bloomberg team setup a large projector that displayed live data about the mock-stocks we had to invest in, which was helpful.
I have to commend them on the amount of food made available to us throughout the event. There were platters of Jimmy John’s sandwiches at the start, followed by Moe’s for dinner, and Benny’s late at night. Inevitably, the food’s quality dropped as it just sat there.
So after many hours of design, tweaking, and dealing with GitHub, we completed our hack, unofficially dubbed “Pumpernickel” in honor of bread. Features include:
- Real-time tracking and representation of all stocks’ net worth
- Displaying positive/negative price trends via colors and line graphs
- Basic information such as current cash, number of stocks owned, bids/asks
- Ability to manually post bids/asks
- Ability to switch to “AutoBot” mode, which let’s our trading algorithm handle bids/asks
Pitted against the other teams’ programs, our trading algorithm’s performance on the mock-stock market was fairly average. It seemed Pumpernickel wasn’t trading quick enough to accurately react to market trends. I’m not sure whether it was due to poor optimization or our trading strategy, or both. But surprisingly, it didn’t crash during the live tests, and it even made profit (given enough time).
But secretly (or maybe obviously), I had my eyes on the UI design prize. I was really impressed by another team’s graphical implementation on a tablet. It looked pretty slick and (unlike ours) had a consistent color scheme.
So when they announced that Team Bread won, I was truly relieved. We did a lame little celebratory jig and the teams won PS4’s for each of their members.
And then, as satisfied victors, we went home and passed out.
First place is pretty good for our first hackathon, and it was fun.
Maybe Team Bread will appear (and steal all the carb-based foods) at a hackathon near you.