This weekend saw crowds  of young developers converge on UNISA’s Kgorong Building for the semi-annual Random Hacks of Kindness coding hackathon. RHOK is a global movement which aims to match those with techie skills with NGOs and voluntary organisations in order to quickly build software to literally save the world. Teams are given a weekend to work as hard as they can to build prototypes, which may or may not then be further developed later on.

Keitumetsi Tsotetsi is a regular blogger at friend-of-htxt.africa Geekulcha, and works as a consultant for KPMG South Africa and Lehlogonolo Sathekge is both a third year student at Tshwane University of Technology and aspiring business analyst at Geekulcha. The put together this report for us.

Upon arrival the atmosphere was amazing, a sea of IT enthusiasts in their blue RHoK t-shirts ready to hack for humanity. Eager to start, the devs quickly had some tea and breakfast and the event had officially begun.

Professor Ernest Mnkandla gave us a warm welcome and had us eager to start with the challenges. Chris Williams from Microsoft told us about the amazing new Nokia X and its platform, needless to mention them equipping us with USBs with the necessary SDKs.

RHOK is structured around challenges. People can either come to the event with particular problems they need solving, or turn up ready to volunteer for 48 hours on one of the issues they think they can help with. All the challenges are about value adding and problem solving issues in various communities.

Six challenges were presented to the floor on the Saturday morning.

  • P-STEM – the organisation for the Promotion of Science Technology, Engineering and Maths – came armed with a proposal for an application which can help students find out about technology-related career paths and related bursaries to help fund their studies.
  • Kutlwano Kemisho from Geekulcha proposed an app to help out students that are not familiar with the number of buildings and how to find your way around.
  • High-tech activist Tiyani Nghoyama asked if it’s possible to use augmented reality to identify electronics components with a mobile app.
  • GDG (Ishmael and Sifiso) presented “donate-my-school-stuff” which enables people to donate items to students who will benefit from being able to view the items available.
  • IT Varsity and Geekulcha girls raised a challenge to raise IT awareness and provide all IT related information to potential IT students and young professionals about the industry to spark more interest.
  • Software company Appchemy dared the devs to create a new way of communication that does not currently exist.

Planning is an element that could make or break a project, so after the teams had been decided they went straight into brainstorming sessions where roles were defined and strategies were formed. We broke for an amazing lunch, the programming began.

Team spirit filled the chamber. The devs had been awakened. Groups were hard at work but a lot of fun was had. Truly an unforgettable experience. It was amazing to see the way people taught each other as they progressed through the early stages of development and see the discoveries that were made from learning from each other.

The team which most impressed the judges.
The team which most impressed the judges.

With so many geeks in one room the enthusiasm spread far beyond the walls too. Twitter and Facebook flooded with updates and we streamed sections live on YouTube and Justin.tv. At one point, we even managed to get the #rhokpta hashtag trending on Twitter – which will hopefully help improve our turnout again for the December hackathon.

Many interviews and photos were taken and these will be made available for the world to see. Reason to relive a memory and momentum to get new comers to the next RHoK. Most importantly friendships were made and solutions materialized.

Surprisingly enough, when midnight struck, most of the developers were still wide awake coding like there is no tomorrow. The awkward conversations with the people we had just met had become easier to hold because we were now familiar enough with each to move away from deciding on the best algorithm to follow to talking about some of our plans and challenges as students, interns or workers. This is where one of the other aims of attending RHoK came alive; connecting and making friendships with like-minded people.

Of course that’s tempered with a friendly spirit of competition. There is, after all, a panel of judges to face at the end of the weekend in order to see your hard work evaluated and its potential for future investment summed up. There’s no money involved – although we did manage to organise a few prizes thanks to our sponsors – which makes it all the more amazing to watch hackers working together for the love of IT and humanity, until the sun came out. It is not every day we get to see such passion.

The rest of the morning flew by as most of the teams now focused on polishing their work and getting ready to present their solutions. Tweets were streaming in and team members were pacing up and down trying to get everything in order.

After a gruelling 24hrs, the top three ideas were:

1. Geekulcha’s electronics mobile application
2. Unisa’s MyCampus Buildings mobile application
3. P-STEM’s online portal

IT Varsity gave away two android tablets, one to a hacker who tweeted the best tweet by tagging #ITVarsity, and the other to one of the team members that were part of developing the IT Varsity application. Creative mindsets crew worked on this challenge and each member got an IT Varsity shirt.

Other prizes were awarded to:

  • Kutlwano Kemisho took the award for the best female hacker and Josiah Masango was prized for having the best hacking spirit.
  • Lehlogonolo Sathekge won the best social media person award and took home a Nokia Lumia 625.
  • Desiree Mampane won a Lumia 520 for the best tweet tagging all sponsors.
  • Diamond Mubaraack got himself the exlusive Nokia X by using in implementing the soulution.
  • Joao Nzango took home a windows phone for being a Geekstar (Hackathon RHoKStar) with 39% of the votes on Twitter. The GeekStar was voted by tweeting @Geekulcha #GeekStar vote for someone.
  • Although the entire night amounted to RHoK choosing specific winners to win prizes, everyone went home with goodies and a refreshed mindset, in love with hacking for humanity all over again. A RHoKing weekend it was!

A very big thank you to Dr Jabu, Tiyani, UNISA, Geekulcha, mLab Southern Africa, Microsoft SA, IT Varsity, Google Developer Groups Pretoria, P-STEM and House 4 Hack who made this event possible. We also thank Htxt Africa for helping us reach to many RHOK enthusiasts.

If you want to join us in December, keep an eye on the @RHOKPTA Twitter account or watch the events feed here at htxt.africa.