How the NFL Tackled a Mountain of Data, Hackathon Style

In 2015, the NFL started collecting a massive amount of data from players on the field leveraging wearable technology. Given how often and quickly players move around on the field, the data piled up quickly and the NFL was left with a veritable treasure trove of data they called Next Gen Stats (NGS).

The NFL wanted to go beyond simply organizing or making sense of all this new data. Fans, coaches, managers and more have been analyzing stats since the game began - but the NFL was seeking more. How could they find original and interesting stories within this new mountain of data that could make the game more exciting than ever before?

And then the bigger question: what innovative applications might arise from third party developers that the NFL itself hadn't contemplated?

That’s where AngelHack came in.

Since 2011, we’ve organized and marketed hundreds of hackathons, many of them for corporations. Most with publicly available APIs that developers could play with.  This was a different animal. Not only were there no APIs, the data the NFL came to us with had never been publicly available before.

How do we Form a Hackathon Around This?

The good part about this whole challenge was that we were working with the NFL. Just the name recognition alone got us a level of interest. We just needed to make sure that once we had people in the door, we could maintain that interest.

They came to us with data, and together we worked to figure out how to package it and create a challenge around it. That process is detailed further down.

A big aspect of the set up for this event was around making it a truly experiential and even “luxurious” hackathon. So we went all out.

The hackathon standard is usually to find a big open workspace with plenty of outlets, hopefully good WiFi, and fill it with tables and chairs (as basic and cheap as possible).

But this was the NFL Hackathon. So we took it a few steps further.

There were not one, but two kitchen and drink (non-alcoholic) bars set up, with full coffee service so that the hackers could stay caffeinated. When they needed a break, a lounge area was there with a projector displaying old football games against a massive wall. And the carpeting? It was astroturf, of course.

Off to the side, there was also a gaming area, where hackers could claim a recliner and relax (and possibly gain some inspiration) while playing the Madden NFL video game.

For meals, we didn’t go with the typical delivery pizza. We brought in local food trucks for EVERY meal.

Food truck meal

Just one of the meals available to hackers from a local food truck.

Why do all of this? Isn’t the point of a hackathon, the projects? Yes. But it’s harder to come up with a great idea and implement it,when you’re mentally drained and don’t have an outlet to relieve some stress.

Be sure to read the next Hacking article: Amazon to Break Open Alexa's Piggy Bank For Record Setting Hackathon Purse


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