The problem I think is that judges themselves are incompetent/careless — when you promote a “bad” winner, you just discourage everyone from trying, because they realize there is no value to this kind of promotion; its bullshit.
I had a similar experience in my university — some kind of business project idea competition; we submitted my lab’s current project, and there were other interesting projects involved who I would have been happy to lose to.
Instead I lost to the girl with the contentless idea for edible spoons for developing countries... an idea I’d seen repeatedly in recent news cycles because some NGO in India was doing it for the last three years.
Five minutes of googling would have discovered this, but instead we simply ignored the competition since.
Attending itself was valuable, along with the half-attempt at winning — we clarified the project and ideas, and had an excuse to clean things up — so it would have been a good exercise to do yearly (and probably for the other projects involved), and the competition was healthy.
But it just takes an incompetent judge to spoil the whole thing.
There’s nothing wrong with people trying to game the competition, its a natural function of competing. But the judges are meant to operate as experts, and an expert should have (some) ability to discern bullshit from something real.
I've become extremely skeptical of the hackathon model in general. It doesn't really produce good projects or products, it encourages an unsustainable style of working and it's a terrible place to recruit good developers. It can encourage people to build stuff, but only monkey patched, bursting with buzzwords, overly flashy projects that are thrown away at a moment's notice.
I actually did something similarly stupid in college; for an embedded development class, my team needed a final project. I proposed a hat for the blind, with distance sensors and buzzers on the inside to inform distance from the walls and such. We also used black conductive thread on a black hat, so it was impossible to work with except for the girl who threaded it in the first place.
Easily the professor's favorite project, and I guess he still uses it as an example for future projects (and at some point he had some team extending it into some kind backpack?)
Later a friend working at a retail store selling products for the disabled contacted me about the project; apparently his boss was interested.
What no one acknowledged is that blind people are not walking into walls... the cane is far more practical, efficient and effective tool than this thing could ever be.
I had meant it to be a joke.
The best thing about it is, the people who need and want the device aren't the ones walking around reading their phone, it's the ones who can't help but mind someone else's business - and this merely feeds their need rather than satisfies it. So there will be an never-ending market of unsatisfied busybodies.