LIS at the Battlecode Hackathon

IB CAS is one of the essential parts of the IB curriculum, since it allows us as students to develop ourselves not only in class, but also beyond. One has to undertake activities in three areas; Service, Activity and Creativity. In addition to that, one has to complete one CAS project, in which one takes part in a project together with other students. This report documents one such project where Armin, Ruben, Tom and Robert took part in the phenomenal annual Hackathon Battlecode
We as a team of LIS students call ourselves Grid_Riders and we competed against various teams from all over the world. In order to conquer difficult tasks we received incredible support from our great LIS computer science teacher Mr Oektem.


In order to understand what comes next one has to however first understand what a Hackathon is. Hackathons are programming contests in which programmers participate alone or in groups to solve various problems. This could be a challenge to create a creative website or to develop programmes that solve complicated math problems. This is the main part of the Hackathon, but the thing which keeps us programmers on our toes the most is the time pressure associated with the projects. A Hackathon begins typically with a problem release by the organisers and a time start. Beyond this point the teams/individuals go head-to-head for a certain time such as 24 hours. This time is then occasionally split into further deadlines. In Battlecode, programmers have multiple Sub-Hackathons, where they need to reach a certain rank in order to advance to the next round. Aside from that, Hackathons are a very important tool for programmers to test their skills in real world scenarios, because one has to work with time pressure and sometimes learn things on the go. 

After the time is up, the code has to be submitted and will then be tested and/or judged against other teams. This will take a couple days or hours, after which the organisers will host a prize ceremony and deliver the prizes. The prizes can range from a few dollars to millions of dollars, depending on the complexity of the challenge and the organisers. 


The Hackathon that we as a team took part in for CAS is Battlecode. Battlecode is a MIT (Massachusettes Institue for Technology – one of the best tech universities of the world) hosted Hackathon, which takes place annually. The goal is to write a bot player that plays a strategy game.

The game this year was played on a board of some size between 32 by 32 and 64 by 64. There were four different unit types: Enlightenment centres, Politicians, Muckrakers and Slanderers. At the end of every round, each Enlightenment centre could bid a certain amount of influence (the game’s “currency”). The centre bidding the most would win a vote for their team. The winner was determined either by the last player standing or most votes after 1500 rounds.

Collaborative Work in Corona Times

We had to quickly adapt with the loss of contact at school due to covid. This stopped us from collaborating in person and forced us to move to digital solutions to continue and finish our work. We as Grid_Riders however overcame this challenge through perseverance and hard work.

A photo of an online meeting where we shared ideas about new features

The Result 

From learning new things to improving our skills and finally achieving a great first result, it is clear that we consider this year’s Hackathon a great experience and success. Out of 275 teams we Grid_Riders achieved a final result of 144. Considering the size of this international event, we are more than happy with the final turnout. Especially if one considers that this was our first time participating, as high school students, doing this for fun against hundreds of other people that are all willing and motivated to achieve great things. Furthermore, even if we had come in last place, we wouldn’t think differently. Success isn’t always measured in numbers, and this project is one example of that. One should consider the more important aspects such as challenging ourselves and stepping out of our comfort, trying something new and working as a group to achieve the best result. This is exactly what CAS is about, motivating students in order for them to learn about things that aren’t part of their syllables and making an effort in order to fulfill the three strands of the subject. Creativity, Activity, and Service. The Hackathon has proved to develop our understanding and embrace a new mindset for creative thinking. 

We of course also want to encourage young people to learn coding and to develop that mindset, because it, among other things, lays a great foundation for future development in or beyond school. If you would like to know more about the code and strategies please follow us on LinkedIn or the link to the documentation below.

Written by Armin Ulrich

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