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HSE Students Organise First MLH Hackathon in Russia

Major League Hacking (MLH) holds its events around the world, but this year is the first time MLH Local Hack Day is taking place in Russia thanks to the initiative of students from the Higher School of Economics. Participants of the hackathon developed IT solutions for some of Russia’s largest companies.

How Hackathon Came About

The club HSE Hackers, which was founded by students of the HSE Faculty of Business and Management’s School of Business Informatics, was the initiator of ‘Russian Day’ at MLH Local Hack Day, an event that has taken place in more than 300 locations so far.

‘Along with colleagues from HSE and other universities, we go to MLH hackathons in different countries and meet with many fellow Russians, and both Russians and foreigners have an interest in carrying out these types of events in Russia,’ comments one of HSE Hackers’ heads Maxim Dyakov. ‘After all, this concerns not only the development of new products, but also the opportunity to meet with the local culture and learn something from one another. This is why we decided to be the first to organise an MLH hackathon in Russia. Thanks to the support of HSE and our sponsors, we were able to do this.’

Who Participated in the Hackathon

The company 1C provided a location to host the hackathon. More than 200 people, including students from HSE, Moscow State University, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Bauman Moscow State Technical University, and more, participated in the event. Over the course of 12 hours, the participants had to develop IT solutions for real business cases from companies that partnered with the competition, including Sibur, Avito, Changellenge, Interfax, the Pushkin Museum, Tele2, Thomson Reuters, TimePad, and Yandex.

At the same time, a series of lectures and workshops were organised for hackathon participants covering relevant problems in today’s IT industry, such as Agile, machine learning, chat-bots, and more. Even those who are not as familiarised with these topics had something to learn, as one lecture focused on ways non-programmers can find a common language with programmers.

According to Maxim Dyakov, HSE Hackers regularly holds these kinds of lectures. The events also feature roundtables at which students can share their experience from participating in different hackathons, as well as discuss common mistakes and talk about the skills acquired at the events.

Proposed Solutions

The projects that hackathon participants proposed proved yet again that IT technologies can be applied to all aspects of life and all spheres of the economy, from studying user behaviour to controlling production processes.

One of the intra-university teams – which included students from HSE, Moscow Technological University, and the Moscow Power Engineering Institute – developed a programme for Changellenge that allows you to analyse respondents’ feedback and predict the results of a survey based on received data. Another team (HSE and Ufa State Aviation Technical University) created a bot that responds to requests for current stock quotes, as well as stock and forex price forecasts. The team from Moscow State University worked on a Sibur case and used machine learning to create an algorithm that helps determine the readings of instruments used when producing polyethylene. (See here to learn about other projects.)

‘IT specialists are currently in high demand on the market, and companies use hackathons to find new and talented developers,’ Maxim Dyakov adds. ‘But our objective was to introduce students to the work these kinds of firms are carrying out. They’ve heard a lot about online companies, but there are also enterprises in the real sector that need their skills. For example, one of the hackathon’s sponsors Sibur focuses on digital developments and is creating a digital factory. Did a lot of programming students know this?’

What Next

In the spring of 2018, HSE students are planning to hold an even larger hackathon with participants from abroad. According to Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Business and Management Irina Lesovskaya and School of Business Informatics Head Svetlana Maltseva, they are ready to support this idea. Svetlana Maltseva in particular noted the importance of these events in the development of human capital.

HSE Hackers also plans to open a branch in St. Petersburg. ‘A lot of St. Petersburg students travel to neighbouring Finland to attend MLH Local Hack Day hackathons. This is why it’s necessary to organise instructional lectures and workshops for them that are similar to what we hold in Moscow,’ Maxim Dyakov concludes.