Project Purple Penguins | Climate Hackathon
Published May 21 2021 03:00 AM 7,208 Views

Team Purple PenguinsTeam Purple Penguins
Climate Hackathon took place online 22-26 March 2021. The goal was to raise awareness about the Climate issues and at the same time create a platform for our developer audience to create innovative solutions with our Azure Services.


What made this Hackathon unique, was the collaboration with non-profit and non-governmental organizations that have a key role in solving some of the climate challenges but might not have the resources or technical competencies to do so on their own. These organizations provided real life challenges for the Hackathon participants to solve. The challenges were categorized into four tracks: carbon, ecosystem, waste, and water.


The outcome of the hackathon was 14 quality solutions and 3 winners:

We interviewed the team behind the winner of the Ecosystem track, Purple Penguins to get to know them, their motives to join the hackathon, as well as their learnings during the hackathon and how they want to apply these learnings in their upcoming projects. 

This team worked on challenges provided by Climate Policy Radar and consisted of the following individuals:



What compelled you to take part in Climate Hackathon? What did you hope to achieve by participating?  

  1. Sebastian Dvorak-Novak: For me, participating in this hackathon aligned very well with my interests as I'm involved in decarbonization projects with clients.
  2. Ioana Grigoriu: Decarbonization is a global corporate focus topic for Zühlke – and one of the reasons why I decided to work for this company. Protecting the environment and tackling issues around this topic is something I feel very passionate about. My main hopes were to be able to contribute to a solution that would help to fix a real problem, as well as to learn more about new technologies.
  3. Jonas Alder: Solving climate change is the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. While this sounds daunting, doing nothing is not going to get us any closer to working solutions. The Climate Hackathon seemed like a good opportunity to support some organizations that are taking up this challenge with my know-how. Above that, Hackathons are also fun and provide lots of learning opportunities.
  4. Christian Abegg: That’s why I had also hoped to achieve new learnings about AI services. And to get to know new people from within Zühlke who are as passionate as I am about solving the climate crisis, of course.

    The graph view of search result highlighting similar laws and policiesThe graph view of search result highlighting similar laws and policies

How did this hackathon support your work to address climate change?

  1. Jonas Alder: I learned a lot about what different organizations are doing to fight climate change, which was very informative and inspiring.
  2. Christian Abegg: Generally speaking, our participation definitely brought new 'trains of thought’ for our internal discussions on the topic of sustainability.
  3. Jonas Alder: The Hackathon also boosted my thinking about how I can improve my personal as well as my professional impact on the topic.


What new learnings and partnerships arose from your participation in this Hackathon?

  1. Sebastian Dvorak-Novak: For me it was very insightful to see, how much policies matter and to think about smart ways to parse them and infer their impact.
  2. Christian Abegg: It was also great to learn about all the data-driven NGOs tackling the climate crisis using technology. And it was great to see, that a big tech company like Microsoft is so engaged in fighting the climate crisis. This really shows that they are a good match for Zühlke.
  3. Joao (Jo) Ferreira: In addition to what I’ve learned on fighting climate change, the hackathon was a great opportunity to learn more about the Azure AI and ML capabilities. On top of that, it was a great way to get to know colleagues from the other Zühlke sites around the globe.
  4. Ioana Grigoriu: I also particularly liked to have the opportunity to work with and learn from colleagues from other countries that I would probably not have had the chance to meet otherwise. And I learned a lot about the capabilities available in Azure and got to experience the creation of razor pages (which was new to me). 

The project architectureThe project architecture



How will you continue to use the learnings from the Climate Hackathon to further your organization's important work?

  1. Joao (Jo) Ferreira: At Zühlke, we believe that technology is key to make the world a better place. As engineers we care about how to solve climate change - we have the brainpower and the willingness to solve this issue. In the Climate Hackathon, I learned a lot about creative ways to fight climate change. This gives us a lot of ideas on how we can support our customers in tackling the climate crisis.
  2. Ioana Grigoriu: I think using data and being able to process it in order to obtain meaningful information is vital for supporting good decision-making, especially when it comes to very serious topics such as the climate. I hope that this experience will be an important building block for me to continue learning and to contribute to other projects that are relevant to helping the environment and improving things in general.
  3. Sebastian Dvorak-Novak: I can use a lot of the things I learned at the Hackathon for our internal sustainability projects but also for projects that we are doing with clients. Zühlke is encouraging its employees to participate in events like the Climate Hackathon and I’m happy to provide my learnings to our internal community.  
  4. Christian Abegg: Events like the Climate Hackathon are very important to tackle the climate crisis. I’m looking forward to the next event like this – and I’m sure, other colleagues of mine are very interested, too.

Is there anything else you would like to highlight?

  1. Joao (Jo) Ferreira: The first time we ever spoke to each other was on the Friday before the Hackathon. Although all of us had not met before, we had such a great team attitude, and we are still in contact. I was impressed by the grade of agility, in which we delivered our contribution to the Hackathon – including a pivot from the initial solution after some validating assumptions about the brief.   
  2. Ioana Grigoriu: I particularly liked the constructive discussions about the pros and cons of the challenge that we should select. Another highlight was to work with Azure cognitive services and to see how impressively fast it delivers results.
  3. Jonas Alder: I liked the collaboration with our international Zühlke team. A team highlight was to experience how fast we developed our solution once our goal was clear. Coding with C# / Razor was another personal highlight for me.
  4. Sebastian Dvorak-Novak: The best moment for me was when I returned after a breakout on day 3 and I saw working software – that was just impressive. And the happiest moment for me was when we got to know that our solution will most likely be applied.
  5. Christian Abegg: I found it refreshing that – like usually at Hackathons – we focused on fast and useable results. Sometimes, it’s fun to create something “quick and dirty”.





Team's Bio:

  1. Joao (Jo) Ferreira: Joao Ferreira is a Lead Business Analyst that started with Zühlke in August 2020. He has more than 10 years of experience in IT and is a certified BA and Product Owner. He has worked in multiple industries (Automotive, Manufacturing, Commodities, Risk management, education, etc.), wearing many different hats. His main focus is Product Management, Agile Practices, and Delivery Management. Joao started his career as a developer and also worked several years as a business consultant in pre-sales which gives him a great perspective on how to manage stakeholders and approach projects.
  2. Ioana Grigoriu: Ioana Grigoriu is a senior software engineer that started with Zühlke in January 2020. She has worked on a few different projects across different industries over the past 8 years and has chameleon-ed her way through different role responsibilities at different times. In more recent years she's been itching to focus on the importance of sustainability and wishes strongly to leave the world a better place than she found it. So she hopes to be able to make a difference by contributing to changes that fix current problems and prevent future ones.
  3. Jonas Alder: Jonas Alder joined Zühlke in June 2017 and has almost 15 years of IT experience. Thanks to his basic training as a systems engineer and his work in various IT roles, he has a very broad range of expertise from application development to databases and systems engineering. His current focus is on DevOps, cloud, automation, and code quality. When not hacking for good, Jonas is an avid skier and a geek of all things space. His favorite place on earth (other than his home country Switzerland) is Japan.
  4. Thomas Kaufmann: Thomas Kaufmann is a software engineer and with Zühlke since 2018. He holds an MSc in Computer Science from Vienna University of Technology with an emphasis on algorithms, optimization, and machine learning. At Zühlke, he started as a developer in the .NET ecosystem but gained experience in various fields and technologies throughout the years. More specifically, his focus is on the design and development of data-driven distributed systems in enterprise cloud environments as well as IoT applications.
  5. Sebastian Dvorak-Novak: Sebastian Dvorak-Novak joined Zühlke in March 2021. After earning his degree in theoretical evolutionary biology, he gained experience as a business consultant and agile project manager in the automotive industry and in the area of urban, multimodal transportation. As a business analyst, he enjoys working closely with clients/users to understand their needs and to design products with genuine added value.
  6. Christian Abegg: Christian is a software architect and has been working at Zühlke since 2007. In his project work, his passion goes into continuously improving quality, providing a rock-solid architecture, writing the right tests, and setting up reliable build pipelines. He never ceases to be amazed by what people can achieve together when they collaborate and work to each other’s strengths.


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