Written by Anette Piirsalu, a European Law Bachelor student at Maastricht University, Faculty of Law. Anette is interested in the interplay of law, technology and business. She plans to continue her career in privacy matters, and possibly do a further degree in ICT.
When I heard about the Brightlands Hackathon that took place in the end of November, I was immediately very excited and determined to participate. I had heard of that event before, and it seemed like a very fun experience. However, as the event came closer, these emotions were gradually replaced by a feeling of discomfort of doing something completely different. After all, I am just a law student. What would I do at a hackathon? I imagined there to be bunch of IT and business people who could probably contribute to the projects far better than I could. Thus, I doubted a lot whether to actually sign myself up or not. Yet, as a last minute decision I still decided to sign up and just see what happens!
On Friday evening I got on a train to Heerlen. Already on the way I met other students from Maastricht also going to the hackathon, and when we arrived at the campus, I thought to myself “so far, so good”. The event started with idea pitching – everyone who had an idea already could present this to the rest. Others could then join the ideas they had the most belief in. Of course I did not arrive there with an idea. I was just there to see what the weekend would bring. As it turned out, then a lot of others had also thought the same, thus, there were quite few people who pitched their ideas. However, after hearing the different ideas, many were inspired and came up with their ideas on the spot. Therefore, in the end ten teams were formed and the work began! We moved to our group room and started to develop our idea of what we wanted to do. This was definitely far from easy! The first evening was the most frustrating. We ended up ditching our original idea, however, we did not manage to come up with any new idea that would really solve the issues we were thinking about. Therefore, in the end of the first day, when I went to sleep around 3AM, I was a bit uncertain about how the next day would go. However, Saturday started off great – we came up with the idea first thing in the morning and everything from then on went super smoothly. We had a very nice group dynamics and we worked very well together. It was very exciting to develop the product and come up with a business plan. Every once in a while different coaches would step by and gave us new techniques on how to continue. I think those different techniques and methods were super useful and something I definitely took with me from the event.
On Sunday morning – the day of the pitching – you could already feel the excitement in the air. Everybody was putting on the final touches on their presentations. I did not come to the event with an idea to win, I did not really think about it at all before Sunday. However, after all our hard work, I did find myself thinking that we could actually win this. On the other hand, while listening to other teams, there were several very strong ideas. Our pitch was the last one, thus, we had to wait nervously for all the other nine teams to present before we got our turn. The pitch itself went by very quickly followed by a huge feeling of relief. We had done everything we could, now it was just time to wait… And then the time came for the announcements. I cannot even describe the feeling I had when they announced us as winners! All I know is that I was very glad that I decided to participate. I met amazing people and got such an incredible experience which helped me to figure out what I want to do in the future. Therefore, I recommend all of you to just come to the Rethinking Justice Hackathon and see what happens! I am 100% sure that you will not leave disappointed and you will make memories that last a lifetime!