By @SimonCocking we spoke with Tomas Mc Phillips to find out more about the first Hackathon in Irish 

When is it on?

It is on Saturday the 1st of April, April fool’s day. The event will be in the Computer Science building which is on the Belfield Campus.

What was the inspiration to start it?

I came up with the idea to start Hackathon na Gaeilge because I love technology and I grew up with Irish and it was an important language in my life. I am a computer science student who lives in Teach na Gaeilge UCD and I am also one of the events officers for the Cumann Gaelach. I went to some hackathons before and I was amazed by how positive, fun and productive they were. We are living in a technology era and people have new ways of living. We need more services and products in Irish. I would like there to be more outlets for these services Irish that would mean people have an alternative to using a product in English. We must praise the developments of the past while too. We can use Facebook, mobile phones and a so on in Irish and it is absolutely great. Now we need more apps and so on in Irish to use with them. Among the groups that are helping there are some societies an Cumann Gaelach, netsoc and people studying different subjects like computer science, commerce and law. We expect people from secondary schools and colleges including DCU, Maynooth and Trinity on the day. That’s the nice thing about this event it is there for everyone.

How many years has it been going on?

This is actually the first year of “Hackathon na Gaeilge” and I believe it to be one of the first Hackathons to be based around the Irish language. It is a completely new event and we hope for a very successful first year. Hackathon na Gaeilge is down as the only Hackathon in Ireland on Eventbrite so it is even more unique.

What exciting things can people look forward to for the 2017 version?

This concept for a hackathon on the Irish language is very new so I am excited and hopeful for what will come out of it. We have a topic with a big scope for different projects. People from all different backgrounds are encouraged to take part and I feel that will give the hackathon much diversity. We are drawing the comparison of the competition to Dragons Den but the only difference is people make the product on the day. Energia have come on board with us and are sponsoring a prize of €250. In terms of some hackathons this hackathon is relatively short at 10 hours long, once the teams are formed they will have to dive right into it. In that time they will need to come up with an idea, create, develop and test it while also thinking of their pitch at the end. There will be food on the day and to mark the end of the event there will be a chance for everyone to socialise afterwards over a few drinks assuming they are at least 18.

What opportunities are on offer for people / startups / investors and companies attending?

There is a huge gap in the market for products and services in Irish for all the speakers and people who enjoy the language. The want is growing and this hackathon is a perfect chance for people to take on this market. Education through Irish is huge and all parents love to see their children learning Irish and speaking it. Also adults themselves would like possibly more products aimed at them in Irish giving them a chance to live fully through the language. There are loads of opportunities for people looking to have a start-up as Gaeilge and the support of the Irish speaking community is very strong to help get them of the ground. This hackathon could be the first step for more people and companies to break into the Irish speaking market.

What tips would you give to people attending to get the most out of it?

The hackathon is based on the Irish language so make an effort to speak whatever Irish you know. Coming early I feel is key, it will give people who came on their own and put into newly formed teams on the day a chance to bond before the competition and also let preformed teams get registered and settled. Also having a good mix of people on your team can be beneficial, having someone with marketing skills, someone with fluent Irish and someone with computer skills will make a strong team. This hackathon may seem long at 10 hours but that time will go quickly once people start developing. Once you get an idea everyone is happy enough with, run with it! Changing idea midway through a hackathon is risky as you lose a lot of time and may not have thought it out fully. N.B People will need to bring their own laptops or whatever else they feel they may need on the day (The room has plenty of sockets for everyone and there is open Wi-Fi). But most importantly I would say to enjoy it, it is fun to be creative and productive and I’m sure your team will have a lot of laughs on the day.

How can people book tickets / when does it usually sell out?

People can book tickets using Eventbrite by searching “Hackathon na Gaeilge” or by searching for Hackathon na Gaeilge on facebook and following the link from there. Hackathon na Gaeilge is one of the only hackathons on in Ireland around this time so we are expecting a lot of people to compete. The price is €10 per person and people of all ages and background with a positive attitude to Irish and a cúpla focal are welcome to attend.

What do I need to attend and know for the day?

1) Participants must bring the own laptops and whatever equipment they feel they may need on the day. There are plenty of sockets for everyone and open Wi-Fi.

2) The product must be based around the Irish language and the pitch will be as Gaeilge so if you have a team make sure someone can pitch with at least Gaeilge bhriste.

3) Nobody will be judging you on your level of spoken Irish and people will be impressed with whatever you make or its concept.

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Event description from Facebook:

WHAT IS A HACKATHON ??

A hackathon is a competition where groups of people come together to find new solutions to problems. It is like Dragons Den but the product is created on the day. People will be in teams of up to five people. It does not necessarily have to be about technology alone, participates are welcome to develop a concept or a tangible product. A hackathon is carried out within a time frame, this hackathon will be 10hrs long. At the end people will present their product on front of the judges as a pitch and a team will be picked as the winner of the competition and of course will be presented with a prize.

WHAT IS THE THEME AND VISION OF THIS HACKATHON ?

There are a lot of people who speak Irish daily and a lot of people who want to use services as Gaeilge. The end goal is that there will be more services available in Irish that will strengthen the use of the language and would be useful in everyday life for Irish speakers. As mentioned above this event is not just for coders and about technology but we presume there will be an element of technology associated with all the projects.

I DON’T HAVE MUCH IRISH CAN I TAKE PART ?

YES YOU CAN. Nobody will be judging you on your level of Irish so If you have broken Irish or are have fluent Irish or just have a cúpla focal we would love to see you there. At Least one person on the team must be able to speak Irish and the pitch will be in Irish so find your friend who speaks Gaeilge. Our team will be walking around who will be more than happy to help regarding Irish and also there are loads of great resources on the Internet.

I CAN’T CODE CAN I TAKE PART ?

YES YOU CAN. Everybody has different skills and in a competition like this they are all important. This is an opportunity for your friends from different professions to come together to create a product and pitch it while developing your development skills….GREAT. (If you don’t have a team you can get a team there on the day).

EXAMPLE TEAM WITH A MIX OF PEOPLE:

1)A PERSON STUDYING/STUDIED IRISH: This person will be helpful with the language and wording of the product. They have connections to Irish and know the needs of people who speak Irish (Usually this team member is good craic and is adaptable)

2) A PERSON WITH COMPUTER SKILLS: The one with computer skills can come from any background but are likely to be a Computer Scientist or Engineer. This person is the link between Irish and the alien languages of code. Very useful and they work better in twos or more, they would do the whole development work if your product is based on technology.

3) A PERSON WITH MARKETING SKILLS: This person will take a good idea to a great idea and will put money in your pocket at the end of the day. These are the people who want an enticing appearance on the product. They could deliver a killer pitch as Gaeilge and have a presentation ready to go with it.


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