Howest hosts the world’s first Decentralised Autonomous Hackathon

Howest University of Applied Science
Shane Deconinck
BLING Final Book article
Reading Level
Readiness criterium
Blockchain architecture, Mandate


In April 2022 HOWEST and BLING organized a hackathon to tackle the over-use of water by developing blockchain-enabled solutions to improve water management. This first-of-its-kind ‘decentralised autonomous hackathon’ was organised via (autonomous) smart contracts on a (decentralised) blockchain.

Developing blockchain-enabled solutions to tackle the over-use of water

Shane Deconinck – Howest University, Belgium

In April 2022 HOWEST and BLING organized a blockchain hackathon to tackle the over-use of water by developing blockchain-enabled solutions to improve water management.

The hackathon allowed HOWEST’s blockchain students to brainstorm and build solutions alongside students from the LUCA School of Arts – with support from 17 external organisations (SMEs, universities etc.). The hackathon was hosted by Snowball, with coaching from Smappee and IntellectEU, sponsorship from the EU S+T+ARTS project, and the main prize was donated by the European Blockchain Conference.

What is a ‘decentralised autonomous hackathon’?

This hackathon was a first-of-its-kind ‘decentralised autonomous hackathon’ (DAH), where the hackathon was organised via (autonomous) smart contracts built on the (decentralised) blockchain. Users registered themselves using a smart contract and created their team.

Once they pitched their idea, the jury was able to use their votes (represented as NFTs) to vote for certain categories (in our case Best Overall, Most Creative and Runner-Up). Once the votes are cast, the hackathon is finished, the votes are recorded and tallied by smart contracts, and a smart contract automatically distributed the winner’s NFTs to them.

Water and blockchain

The inspiration for the hackathon was given by Anna Ridler, an artist that makes artworks surrounding blockchain. She challenged the participants to create a project that mimicked nature: Non-Fungible Token (NFTs) that degrade over time, mutate, or grow. As blockchain is usually very static, this change in perspective on blockchain was really interesting and the students really enjoyed this hackathon.

What’s a NFT?

NFTs are “one-of-a-kind” digital assets . These digital tokens can be thought of as certificates of ownership for virtual assets.

The collection of NFTs developed for the hackathon have been published on where you can see the team participant NFTs, the vote NFTs used during voting, and the winner’s NFTs for each category.

The winner – Kojo!

There were several great projects but there can only be one winner of the DAH. This honour went to Kojo, a project which rewards you for saving water. Water usage is monitored using a tamper-resistant IoT-enabled water

meter: when your usage is lower than the average usage of families like yours, you receive tokens that you can use to water virtual flowers. These flowers need to receive water
to stay alive, just like real plants. In essence, you use the water that you have not used in real life to virtually water your virtual flower NFTs.

Because this project focused on a solution to reducewater usage, included natural elements like the degradation of plants, and wasthe most viable at the end of the hackathon, it was voted ‘Best Overall’.

What happens next?

HOWEST’s blockchain students will use the projects from the hackathon as part of their coursework, and will try to turn their ideas in to actual products. HOWEST will use this autonomous platform for their 2023 BLING hackathon.

2023 Hackathon

In April 2023 HOWEST will host a decentralised autonomous hackathon focusing on the ‘Energy Transition’ for their students and the BLING partnership. The hackathon will be followed by a job fair and networking event.

The Energy Transition is a wicked, complicated, but high-impact problem – and we hope
this hackathon will help to generate new blockchain-driven solutions. Our hackathon is governed by a smart contract, which will award participation NFTs as participants move through different event phases (registration, hacking, finished, voting), and trophy/award NFTs.