Skip to content

Catathon: celebrating 25 years of Catalyst


A crowd of people standing and sitting in a large room at the end of the day. Someone is talking on a microphone and there are tables of food in the foreground.

by Charlotte Weston

Photos are by Kristina Hoeppner, except the sourdough one.

Catathon began in 2017 as a way of celebrating Catalyst's 20th birthday, and in July, five years later, we celebrated 25 years of Catalyst with another fun-filled day long event.

During Catathon, staff members run workshops introducing colleagues to their hobbies and interests. There are opportunities to work on software projects (like a more traditional hackathon) as well as things unrelated to software, such as dancing, painting, and playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Below are some photos of a few of the activities that happened, with some accompanying tips and info!

A handful of people are standing in an office talking, and holding various things to juggle.

Liam Sharpe (wearing black) giving a workshop on juggling in Wellington. Liam says "juggling is a long game, but something as simple as trying for 10 minutes a day will make a massive difference. One day it just 'clicks' and all of a sudden you can juggle." He says "don't be afraid to practice with just two, or even one ball when you're learning."

Two people are sitting at a table with various paper and craft supplies making greeting cards.

Tish Kirkland holding a card she made at the pop-up greeting card workshop in Wellington. Tish's tip is to "make sure you check before you cut! I made the same mistake 3 times in that I forgot to unfold something before I cut it. Check twice, cut once! (There wasn't any measuring going on, which is why I changed the saying.)"

Two people are standing in a kitchen holding mixing bowls and wooden spoons making sourdough.

Mariann Matai (right) and Nicole Illustre making sourdough bread in Christchurch. Here are Mariann's tips for making delicious sourdough:

  1. Dip your hand into flour when doing the folding, this will help with the stickiness.
  2. Don't skip on the folding process! Do it at least 3-4 times with 30 mins in between.
  3. Before rising the dough it shouldn't be too soft or too dry but should hold it's own shape just about.
  4. Bake at really high temperature 230-250C for 30 mins in fan assisted over covered with a lid (or in a Dutch over if you have one). Then bake it for another 10 mins with the lid off until it's nice and brown.

A sheet of paper with braille and translations.

Matthew Hunt ran a braille workshop. "We looked at UEB (Unified English Braille) which is now used in most English-speaking countries and has replaced national Braille systems, Matt says. "You can learn to read Braille by sight and can quite quickly pick up what's known as Grade 1 UEB, where every Braille character represents a single written character. For Grade 2 UEB, a Braille character may be a single character, a whole word, part of a word and may be different things dependent on context. If you're keen to learn more, there's an excellent Android app called Braille Tutor."

Russel is talking to a group of people, with a CPR mannequin on the floor in front of him.

Russel Garlick gave a talk about CPR in Wellington and ran a competition using a CPR manikin, which can measure the depth and rate of compressions. Russel is a NZ Resuscitation Council Approved New Zealand Emergency Care Instructor. His CPR tips are:

  • 30:2 - no matter who, as in compressions to breaths.
  • Staying Alive is out! The NZ Resus Council now advises a slightly faster rate of 120 compressions per minute. The research also found that people sing at different rates so weren't accurately getting the 100-110 per minute.
  • 120 per minute is the new guide, so 2 per second.

Chris Cormack is sitting at a table smiling and chopping carrots. On the right is a close up of a hand holding a bowl of boilup.

As is the Catathon tradition, Chris Cormack made boilup for everyone to share. He's still on the hunt for a reliable source of pūhā in Wellington so had to make do with spinach. Te Wainui helped out making doughboys for both the meat and vegan versions which were a big hit.

A group of people are sitting on couches around a small table making chainmaille.

Lily Fahey (right) teaching chainmaille making in Wellington. "The big trick to chainmaille is patience," Lily says. "It takes a while to make, especially when starting out, so don't try to make every ring perfect and instead enjoy the process."

A training room is laid out with desks in 3 rows and computers set up on the desks. People are working on the computers.

Catalystas from all corners of the building making their contributions to open source library system, Koha, at the Koha bug squashing workshop in Wellington. "For many of the group, this was their first time EVER doing software development," says Aleisha Amohia, "so it was a real pleasure for the Catalyst Koha team. In just one morning we were able to push 10 patches (which will all be included in the next version of Koha), plus induct 8 new Koha developers."

Several people, including one person on a ladder, are painting a mural on a wall in a meeting room with bright blue, green, red, and yellow colours.

Mural painting in one of the meeting rooms in Catalyst House in Wellington. The mural was designed by Evonne Cheung, and was based around the Korimako (Bellbird) and using the colours of available leftover paints. "We wanted to be able to pass the buck, I mean, share the activity with the rest of the company, by getting everyone to participate in the painting, thus creating a sense of ownership to the mural," says Evonne. "Not everyone is able to draw freehand, but everyone is able to colour in, hence the design as a large paint-by-numbers. I have come to realise just how much work it was to number each and EVERY section, and not have too many colours to mix but enough to get the painting to not look like a child's painting. We're going to put the finishing touches on it in the coming weeks, but it was wonderful to see everyone come and get involved in the painting, something that is going to be there for everyone to enjoy every time they use the meeting room."

Three people are standing looking intently at a large Lego train set on a table.

A Catathon staple in Wellington, the Lego train event is run by Sanjay D'Souza, and is an opportunity for people to experience the fun of driving a Lego train. "Attendees worked in pairs to complete a series of tasks during their 14 minute session," says Sanjay, "taking turns to either drive a train or control the network, i.e. changing track switches, raising or lowering road crossing barrier arms amongst other things. At the end of the session, people were awarded a Lego Train Engineering Certificate upon successful completion of their tasks. By the end of Catathon almost 90 people had taken part and had received a personalised certificate."

A lot of cupcakes with blue or white icing and sprinkles and flags saying Catalyst 25.

Some of the delicious shared goodies at the end of the day.