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A wrap up of the hx summer hackathon

Hackathon, Renew Use Cases, Insurtech, Technology4Mins
2021-10-20Written by Aimee Pearcy

We dive into the highlights of our summer hackathon, including wee-new (a small embeddable version of Renew) and a way of using the platform game Hollow Knight to feed data into insurance models in Renew.

Hackathons are important events here at hx. Given that many of our team members are remote, they offer an opportunity to come together and reconnect with one another. In particular, hx hackathons are designed to provide us all with a break from our usual day-to-day tasks as we use our skills to work on shiny and exciting things during working hours. 

Last Saturday, we wrapped up this year’s summer hackathon. If you follow any of our social media pages, you’ve probably already seen some of our team members sharing pics of the delicious hampers we sent out. Alas, there is more to a hackathon than chocolate, crisps, and beer (or at least, that’s what we’ve been told), so we thought we’d share some of the highlights with you all in this wrap-up.  

It was great to see a core group of contributors getting involved this year, and we were thrilled to see how much everyone enjoyed working on their own code.  

Although some of our team members decided to come into the office, all our socials and presentations took place online. Hooray for Microsoft Teams and Spatial Chat. 

The reason we push for this ‘online-first’ approach is because it enables everyone to take part, regardless of their location. This is particularly important to us given that hx embraces flex working, and our employees span multiple countries.  

We’re also proud to reveal that our summer hackathon wrap-up meeting lasted just shy of two hours this year – a significant improvement on the over two and a half hours at our Christmas hackathon back in 2020! Looks like we’re finally starting to get the hang of this ‘wrap up’ thing... 

Anyway, here are this year’s summer hackathon winners: 

Introducing WeeNew – a small, embeddable version of Renew written in Python

The award for the most exciting innovation and the most profound collaboration goes toWeeNew–a small, embeddable version of Renew written in Python

You’ve likely heard of Renew, our platform which enables the combination and modelling of an incredible range of data sources to help the insurance industry understand and price risk better...but have you heard of WeeNew

The answer is probably not, given that it’s just been created by our newest senior engineers Peter, Fela, and Myles. It is designed to be used as a playground, or in documentation to demonstrate how Renew works. 

This hack would already have been deeply impressive if it had been created by people who had been at hx for over a year, let alone a few short months. Congratulations to Peter, Fela, and Myles for embracing collaboration so enthusiastically. We also want to offer a special well done to Peter, for somehow managing to rewrite a simplified version of the Renew backend in a single day! 

Our Hollow Knight modification for data modelling in a dystopian future...

The award for the ‘biggest technology challenge’ goes to ‘escapism is not freedom’- the most Black Mirror-esque application of Renew we’ve ever seen

“Daryl’s hacking is always entertaining” was one of the key quotes from this hackathon, and his contribution to Show and Tell is one of the key reasons why. 

Over the past year, many of us have turned to video games to provide a sense of escapism. But, in the words of Scottish rock band Snowblood, escapism is not freedom.  

Our lead engineer Daryl’s most recent hack showed that we can’t even escape the world’s problems through games (and maybe we shouldn’t be trying to). Daryl reverse-engineered Hollow Knight, a popular action-adventure game, and fed it some UK data on Covid-19 cases, inflation rates, temperature levels, and carbon emissions.  

These real-world statistics had a direct effect on the game. Every time someone in the UK catches Covid-19, your character’s health drains a little more. As time ticks on, increased inflation rates drive up the prices of items in the store. Before you know it, your health bar is almost completely drained and you can’t afford to heal yourself.  

You might think that was already drastic enough to drive home Daryl’s point – but it gets worse. The program tracks how much damage you’ve taken from enemies and puts it all into a Renew policy where your gaming skills directly affect your car insurance. The more damage you take from enemies, the higher your insurance quote is. Yikes. 

As well as being amazed at the sheer challenge of this hack, along with Daryl’s commitment to take on so much in only two days, we loved the satirical humour. It goes to show the potential for hugely flexible and intricate data modelling within Renew. Not to mention gives insurers a good reason to play video games at work in the name of risk insights! 


Well done to the entire hx team 

It’s been a jam-packed few days, but we’re proud of everyone for taking part, and for getting their hacks working to create some fabulous presentations to celebrate the end of summer.  

We’d like to give a special shoutout to Adomas, Daryl, and Amrit for keeping up the true hackathon spirit by coding and hanging around in our spatial chat, and to Kaja for organising some amazing hampers and our fun terrarium social. Not to mention bringing the whole event together and ensuring it was such a success.  

We can’t wait to see how these hacks influence our customer roadmap over the next few months, and we’re already excited for the next hackathon!  

Interested in finding out more about hx?

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