Hacking the Toy Box

Roguen Keller
Technology Incubation and Evaluation
Hitachi Vantara

Much like everything else, toys have evolved over time. What remains is the way they bring people together – toys are more fun when they’re shared, right? Roguen Keller shows how getting creative with toys can foster collaboration and innovation.

As companies start to turn to developer communities as a main resource, Roguen, a member of the technology incubation and evaluation team at Hitachi Vantara, identified a need to strengthen our own. “Advocacy and a more direct connection to our developers were gaps that we saw with Hitachi Vantara.” To address those gaps, Roguen aimed to connect engineering teams, implementation teams, end users and even executive council members by creating the Code1 Hitachi Developer Network Endurance Challenge.

Roguen Keller
I wanted us to work without realizing it was work.

Code1 is an internet-of-things (IoT) codeathon full of technology challenges that participants try to solve. “An IoT hackathon in this style has never been done before. We wanted to use an innovative, creative approach to the event,” Roguen said.

Roguen hit on the idea to gamify Code1. “I wanted us to work without realizing it was work,” he said, and he did so by using off-the-shelf toy car kits to develop innovative solutions. “The Anki cars were one of our first add-on devices for the event. We also had Amazon and Google home devices, a drone quadcopter, a 3-D printer, Raspberry Pis and Lego Mindstorms, to name a few.” Experimenting with toys and hacking or even creating their interface would certainly create interest.

To create a wide and inclusive community, the codeathon was open to technical and non-technical Hitachi employees. Many participants had never coded before and while others may have experimented, they didn’t identify as developers. “Because we have not typically reached out in this way, many were not even aware that we had certain software products, that we could interact with them in this way, or that we had a community to support them in learning more,” Roguen said.

Code1 not only raises awareness of Hitachi’s products, but it also helps participants understand products more thoroughly and identify areas for improvement. “Our participants attempted to self-educate on our technologies,” Roguen explained. “If they had trouble doing that then 1) we knew we had a problem to address, and 2) they might just help us fill that gap in return for a chance to win the event challenge.”

The event continues to widen its reach. CodeSG, held in Singapore, was their first publicly-available event. There they had the chance to test all the progress they had achieved with Code1 so far, with a developer network beyond Hitachi employees – an audience that wasn’t vested in or didn’t know Hitachi products.

Since Code1 was Roguen’s first time planning a codeathon, he wasn’t expecting much success. “At the end of each event we ask if our participants would recommend this event to someone else and if they’d do it again. I expected lower or perhaps negative scores, but we’ve consistently scored higher than 9 out of 10 at every one of our events. It is clear that there is a great desire to make this happen more often and in more regions across the globe” Roguen said. “My goal now is to focus on training others and sharing our recipe so we can make that happen.”

By experimenting with hackathons and innovative game-playing, Roguen has successfully expanded our collaboration with developers around the world. As industries and technologies transform, Hitachi Vantara transforms along with them – thanks to Roguen and the codeathons.

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