In the center of Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh, between its historic castle and the Pentland hills, lies the operational heart of BlackRock’s Aladdin. Here, the Core Systems Operations team consisting of system administrators, software developers and project managers focus on maintaining the stability and efficiency of the Aladdin platform for BlackRock and its clients.
Owing to the location, team presence and student outreach, it was no surprise to have BlackRock and The Edinburgh University Computing Society proudly partner to host Hack the Burgh, an annual student hackathon in association with Major League Hacking in March, 2016. This two-day, fully-charged event hosted onsite at BlackRock brought together nearly 100 student hackers, 20 student organisers and 30 technologists from additional sponsors including J.P. Morgan, Bloomberg, ARM, NCR, GitHub, Craneware and Entrepreneur First. The focus was on the students to create innovative and fun projects in a spirited and collegial environment to solve challenges and win prizes.
To keep the good energy going, sponsors supported and encouraged hackers through a series of talks on using new technologies, coding techniques and coding challenges designed specifically for the competition.
In the main halls, sponsor booths were crowded with competitors in search of free swag and job opportunities. The BlackRock stall was a popular stop throughout the event to find out more about Technology at BlackRock, in addition to the branded rubber ducks, water bottles, Red Bull and ten dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts!
Saturday night into Sunday was particularly fun, giving everyone a much needed break. The “Watt” lecture room was converted into the “BlackRock Cinema” where a screening of cinematic masterpiece “Mean Girls” – as requested by attendees – was enjoyed by all. Games including the interactive who-done-it mystery “Werewolves” were popular in the terrace and allowed volunteers and hackers to interact even more informally. …there was even a self-sailing boat made entirely out of hackathon swag (it used several BlackRock ducks to stay afloat!).
By Sunday morning the fun and games died down as the deadline loomed. BlackRock worked with teams to improve their presentations and provide constructive feedback during last 2 hours. As hacking came to a close, presentations began. Twenty two teams were given the opportunity to condense 24 hours’ worth of work into 2-minute pitches presented to a panel of judges. BlackRock judges awarded prizes for their favourite Financial and Innovation hacks, and one BlackRock volunteer even gained an honorary spot on the Major League Hacking panel!
- The overall Hack the Burgh prize went “Augment,” a Chrome extension that parsed an open eBook for moods and sounds, and played ambient music and effects using IBM Watson.
- BlackRock’s Innovation prize went to “Glasshouse” for a cost-effective monitoring tool to regulate and control agricultural components in a greenhouse – an impressive proof of concept for a two-man team of under-18s.
- BlackRock awarded two prizes for Best Financial Hack to: “Stockémon,” which pitted fortune 500 companies against each other in a Pokémon style multiplayer game using power values determined by live market values; and “BudgetBanger,” a one-man team that also charmed the judges with a clean and stylish financing app, predicted your average spending and allowed you to budget accordingly.
None of this would have been possible without the great work of the Edinburgh University Computer Society students, whose organisational skills and maturity impressed everyone in the firm. The BlackRock team in Edinburgh look forward to a continued partnership with these bright and engaging students in the future!