Software Development
Coding / OpenBracket

Next weekend, Delaware is hosting one of its largest coding competitions ever

Bankrolled by bigwigs like Chatham Financial, {OpenBracket Delaware will host 150 developers, many of whom hail from out of town, and dole out more than $50,000 in prize money. Get ready.

This inaugural coding competition will start online and finish in Wilmington. (Logo by The Kitchen)

And now it’s down to the finals.
Earlier this month, nearly 3,000 coders from across the globe completed the online portion of {OpenBracket, billed as “the biggest coding competition in the littlest state” by organizers. (Even though, you might point out, Delaware is neither the smallest by population, nor geography, but you get the point.) Next week, those organizers, a stakeholder group including representatives from First State Innovation, Zip Code Wilmington, The Kitchen and, full disclosure,, will host the finals.
Between travel stipends for finalists — many of whom are coming from out of town — and various prizes, more than $50,000 will be given out, including a $15,000 grand prize to the top project from some 150 chosen competitors next Saturday, Nov. 5. Open Bracket will feature an entire weekend of programming in Wilmington.

  • Friday, Nov. 4 (5 p.m. – 7 p.m.): Kick off things at the Grand Opera House, with a free event unveiling various problem sets that participants can choose to compete in. This part is open to the public.
  • Saturday, Nov. 5 (all day): The competition itself will happen during the day at the Grand (you can still qualify to be selected to participate). It’s only open to participants who qualified. In the evening, there will be a food truck rally with music and games on North Market Street.
  • Sunday, Nov. 6 (10 a.m. – 12 p.m.): A brunch will feature final presentations and award winners.

The run of the event required participants be at least 18 years old and eligible to work in the United States, and yet, contestants from as far India, Japan and Australia took part, said Kirsten Wolfington, the lead organizer of the event series and a former DEDO staffer. She’s working closely with local venture capitalist Ben duPont to shepherd the event with an array of local organizing support.
The event is primarily funded by a group of notable corporate interests with Delaware presences, including title sponsor Chatham Financial, Christiana Care, Capital One, WSFS, M&T Bank and JPMorgan Chase. They’re after branding Delaware as an innovative tech jobs magnet, particularly in cybersecurity and fintech.
Here’s how the first round worked: technical problems were listed online by Silicon Valley-based third-party service Hacker Rank. Contestants were presented with a set of five questions, and they were given only 48 hours to solve as many as possible. Out of 7,000 registrants, only 3,000 actually finished the event. Coders were given free reign in programming languages to solve these problems, but most of them were solved using C.
The next and final round? It will be right at home, here in the First State. Online finalists will be given travel stipends to travel to Wilmington. The final round will be composed of an algorithmic question and a problem solving question. For the algorithmic question, contestants will be given a particular problem then asked to write a solution for it. For problem solving, contestants will choose from one of five problem datasets, which will be kept confidential until next Friday’s opener. Participants will also have the option of competing individually or in teams.
Judges will pick the two best solutions out of five for each problem set, after which contestants will have the opportunity to present their solutions. That’s when the winner will be chosen and awarded $15,000 in cash.
It’s important that “the coding competition is here in Delaware,” said Wolfington, noting the civic pride portion of the event.
“We’re using it to help brand Delaware as a technical place to come work and live. It’s a great site to have a technical career, there’s also a lot of tech opportunities here,” said Zip Code Wilmington‘s director of education and {OpenBracket board member Tariq Hook.
The idea is to attract mid-level to senior level developers, who according to Hook, have at least three years, or the equivalent of, work experience. The question, now, is: Will it work? Will the engineers who come for the competition get hype on Delaware?
It’s no coincidence {OpenBracket has arrived at this time, as it follows a trend with the Obama administration’s recognition of coding bootcamps as a viable source of workforce training. It also aligns with a growing effort of Delaware economic development groups to sell the state.
“With the democratization of technology, tech hubs are growing all over the nation. We’re excited to partner with {OpenBracket Delaware to help create more opportunities for developers in Delaware,” said Hacker Rank’s cofounder Vivek Ravisankar.
{OpenBracket Delaware is a nonprofit that was formed through a joint effort between Zip Code Wilmington, First State Innovation and us here at Delaware. Once it’s over, we look forward to seeing you at Delaware Innovation Week.

Companies: Chatham Financial / JPMorgan Chase & Co. / First State Innovation / Capital One / The Kitchen / ChristianaCare /

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