NOW + Next

Atlantic Lottery hackathon searches for innovative next-generation products

by Natalie Belliveau

Participants at the Hackathon's Startup Zone location in Charlottetown, PEI / Des participants à l'emplacement Startup Zone du HackathonIt may have been cold outside, but there was a fresh pot of hot ideas percolating at the Atlantic Lottery Lotto Game Super Hackathon, which took place Feb. 8-10 in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, in partnership with Volta, Venn and Startup Zone.

“Atlantic Lottery is proud to support innovation in our region,” said Michael Sandalis, manager of innovation execution at Atlantic Lottery. “Hackathons are boiling with ideas and are a great place to get your creative juices flowing. Atlantic Lottery is always looking for new ways to improve our products and services, and we like to stay on the forefront of things, so this type of partnership was a natural fit.”

A hackathon is an event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in the collaborative design and development of a new product or service. The type of participants are diverse, and teams are often made up of a mix of artists, graphic designers, product or service designers, engineers, programmers and business people.

“Hackathons are a great tool for engaging innovation ecosystems and we are proud to work with innovative companies like Atlantic Lottery to help connect Atlantic Canadian innovators through fun events that aim to foster ideation and innovation,” said Jesse Rodgers, Chief Executive Officer of Volta.

The goal of this hackathon was to design a digital instant game. The 62 participants had the weekend to build the project and pitch it to a panel of judges for a chance to win one of three prizes per location and a chance to compete for the overall grand prize of $2,000.

“Not everyone knew each other before this event, and so the hackathon allowed different people from different backgrounds and expertise to come together and work on a project all weekend long,” said Mischka Jacobs, communications and events coordinator at Venn Innovation. “All the participants had a great time and a lot of fun coming up with creative designs for Atlantic Lottery, and after hearing the presentations, we’re very proud of the creative, innovative and passionate people and ideas that fill our community and province.”

The event was being broadcast from Atlantic Lottery’s Volta Outpost in Halifax to the other locations in Moncton and Charlottetown.

“This was the first time we’ve done an event like this across three provinces, but we were happy to see how well it can work,” said Sandalis. “We were able to increase engagement, participation and overall creative activity by hosting this type of event in more than one province. It was great to expand the hackathon, and definitely something we will consider doing again in the future.”

“We’re very happy with the pan-Atlantic hackathon weekend! We’re excited to take part again in the next hackathon and continue to use these events to make a social impact in the community,” said Patrick Farrar, CEO of Startup Zone.

Participants had to be 19 or older and were given information on responsible gambling features and other pertinent information about the lottery business and the regulatory environment.

For participants, the experience is a fun way to develop new ideas.

“The event was a good way to explore creative ways to make a game for a new generation of players,” said Frederic Laforge, whose team won first place at the Venn location for an idea that combined lottery games and giving back to charity. “I love participating in these events, it’s creative and very energetic.”

For Mark Podrouzek, student at St. Mary’s University, and part of the team that won of the overall Grand Prize for all regions with an interactive instant game, hackathons are always a surprise. “You never know what is going to happen. Part of the fun is the nature of doing something in such a short time. I love how the crunch influences the creative process, and how the product transforms from your initial idea.”

Even the judges had something to learn.

“The opportunity to engage with some of the region’s brightest young minds during the event is always a highlight. Observing them digging into our business and quickly grasping the challenge to come up with new and creative gaming experiences gives you a real appreciation for the ingenuity available to us in Atlantic Canada,” said Merrill Fullerton, from Atlantic Lottery’s instant games team, and judge for the Moncton portion of the event.

So what happens with the top ideas?

Some of the ideas will be posted to a test site, where they will be tested with a panel of players.

“Through these hackathons, we get some really great insight into what players might want to see in our games, and in our products,” said Sandalis. “The participants completely connect with the concept of looking at things from a different perspective, and then figuring out how to use that mindset to improve a process. We were impressed with so many of the neat, outside the box ideas presented at the end of the weekend.”

“With a really good response from players, they could potentially continue into the development phase with an eventual spot on alc.ca. You never know how far a good idea can go,” he added.

Event photos: