Why not get involved in a Met Office hackathon, a collaborative idea-generating and prototyping challenge event, where you will meet new people and work together to create something great.
Hackathons, or hack days, are collaborative, and sometimes competitive, computer programming events that have become very popular. Increasingly hackathons are held to find novel solutions to tricky social and environmental problems, and this is why they are of particular interest to the Met Office.
Many technology companies use the hack day approach internally as means of encouraging innovation - Facebook, Yahoo! and Linked-In being notable examples with Facebook's like button conceived at a hackathon.
The World Bank organised a global Water Hackathon in 2011 to raise awareness of water and sanitation challenges in developing countries. Other events have developed solutions to reuniting families after disasters and a wide range of other novel approaches to humanitarian needs.
These event aren't just for people who code, a lot of thinking, debate, imagination, drawing and writing is needed. You'll be giving up a weekend, but in return you'll be fed, entertained, and presented with interesting challenges.
In 2012 the Met Office held three hackathons, the first was in April as one of 25 cities running simultaneous events around the world on the same weekend for the International Space Apps Challenge. The second was our own event called Weather for Fun, and then in December we joined another international event called Random Hacks of Kindness.
Hackathons are often arranged to bring new ideas to a business or product. For most people taking part they are an opportunity to learn new things and try out ideas, and you don't have to know anything about writing software to take part. If you come along to one, then maybe you'll have a breakthrough that will lead to a completely new product, or a far better way of working, or perhaps you'll just have an interesting chat with someone you might never have met otherwise.
Met Office hackathons all follow a similar, very simple format. Before the hackathon the organisers will identify a theme, some experts and challenges. In some cases it might be an open call for ideas, in other cases, as with the Random Hacks of Kindness hackathon in December 2012, we'll approach organisations we'd like to support in this way, for example our corporate charity WaterAid.
Hackathons usually take place over a weekend, starting with breakfast on Saturday, followed by a quick introduction to the problems to be worked on and ending with a show and tell session after lunch on Sunday. Teams form around the expert who set the challenge, there's rarely any formal structure, though for international events it's a good idea to have someone who handles communication - skype and twitter are popular. Everyone can find something useful to do, as there's so much to do in a short time, researching, designing, preparing a presentation, lots of experimenting.
Typically a prototype product is created. It could be a website or mobile phone app, or it could be something physical, we've seen information kiosks and board games. Each team will demonstrate the prototype to the other participants and a panel of expert judges.
Some of the ideas developed at last year's events are now being turned into new Met Office services, but the ideas generated don't belong to the Met Office, and some teams have continued to work on their projects in their spare time. Of course for some it was just a chance to experiment and learn.
"After the event you all kindly agreed to help WaterAid by making the app a reality so the time has come for me to call in that gracious offer!" - Isabelle Herszenhorn, WaterAid
Be flexible, it might be that something you're far from expert at is the missing ingredient for your team's project. Maybe your drawing skills will be good enough.
Work in short bursts and check-in with the rest of your team regularly. Most of us are at our most productive when we're not interrupted, but you need to be sure you're working in step with the rest of your team.
Offer you skills to other teams. It's not really a contest, and you might need some help from others to try out an idea, or fix a tricky problem.
If you're not enjoying yourself speak to one of the organisers - maybe we can move you to another team, get you some food, or help you with a problem. We are most definitely not trying to get you to do work for free, we want to see you having creative fun.
Last updated: 19 September 2014