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An inside look at the Qantas hackathon

Bonnie Gardiner | June 3, 2015
CIO's Bonnie Gardiner shares her experience as a judge at the airline's hackathon on the weekend.

In second place were a team of academic game developers from Tasmania (Team Tasmania) with clever new aviation-themed game options specifically for the Qantas Joey Club - a relatively new program that benefits children as the fastest growing segment of the Qantas Frequent Flyer membership base.

With so many great ideas, you'd wonder how we managed to pick just three. Well, we didn't.

In equal third place were two groups of equal ingenuity, with Sam Killin, the 'Lone Wolf' developer creating 'Qantas to the Door', and a duo called 'Cool Mac' with the idea for 'Qantas IQ'.

The former is an opt-in rideshare service for Qantas customers that allows them to access details of other passengers headed to similar destinations, cutting travel costs and encouraging mingling -- Uber and Tinder combined! The latter is a sassy natural language botnet service similar to a travel agent Siri (fondly referred to by some judges as 'Qiri') to discuss and book flights, cars and accommodation.

A presentation by team 'Play to Lead' pitching gamification concept, Qantas Engage (Source: Steven Cooper)

Jo Boundy and myself trying out the virtual reality solution -- QURATION -- with Google Cardboard (Source: Gavin Heaton).

"We are absolutely overwhelmed by all the phenomenal ideas that you guys came up with," said Boundy before announcing the winning teams.

"I can't believe that you've not only been onsite here for the while weekend - that in itself is an impressive feat -- but also, the ideas that were generated in such a short period of time. Extremely creative, extremely innovative, very unique thinking and certainly challenged my thinking. It's fantastic to see you thinking outside of the box.

"We know at Qantas that we don't have a monopoly on good ideas and you guys have proved that by coming in here and challenging our thinking, so personally from me and on behalf of all of Qantas, a massive thank you, it's been awesome."

The victors, made up on Bradley Clayton, Hadi Michael, Jake Doherty and Lachlan McDonald, said that they entered for the fun and thrill of the challenge, but winning was just an added bonus.

"We came to have fun and we absolutely had a tonne of fun," says Clayton. "We loved the venue and everything they set up, we loved the challenges, and getting our teeth sunk into a real world problem, and I guess winning was a bonus. Even if we didn't win we'd have still walked away with a great experience."

Deliberating: Frank Arrigo with Gavin Heaton and Joanne Jacobson, plus Jo Boundy's arms and my foot (Source: Steven Cooper)

'An appetite for creativity'

After announcing the prize winners and the hackathon draws to a close, Boundy reiterates to me how overwhelmed she is with the solutions presented, which would no doubt take a lot longer to produce in a larger corporate like Qantas.


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