As I walked away from day two – the final day – I had a mixed sense of joy and sadness. I found myself at a loss for words to explain this unexpected experience. I’m not sure what was more exhilarating; the amazing apps the teams created or getting to know the fantastic people that attended and supported the event. By the end of the day I found myself wishing for a day three.
Guys In Orange Ties
I first need to give a shout-out to the guys-in-orange-ties. Throughout the event these guys; dressed in the normal LA casual style you’d expect – with the exception of orange ties – walked around and helped the teams with various issues. Whether a team needed some help with a particular app or just needed some technical advice on how to move forward.
I spoke with one attendee that was struggling to bring an idea to life due to a lack of coding experience. She explained how several of the support people stopped by from time-to-time and helped find apps that would bring her to the finish line. As she explained how helpful they had been; tears formed and her expression revealed a great depth of appreciation.
The Donn and Koo of Things
My personal experience resulted in the same sense of appreciation. Ten minutes after walking through the door the first day, I met the girl in charge of social for the event – Vanessa Koo. After introducing myself; she took the time to explain what to expect over the next couple of days.
Not long after meeting Koo she introduced me to Alex Donn – the guy responsible for making this whole event possible. Saying that his excitement was contagious would be a huge understatement. He was absolutely thrilled to tell me about all the positive ramifications events like this have. Alex explained that not only is this a great way to bring amazing minds together to create cool stuff; that it’s also a great place for HR people to find talent. It’s such a fantastic way to see how someone interacts with others and works in high intensity situations.
Not Just for Nerds
As you might guess, there’s nothing I love more than hanging out with a bunch of fellow nerds. The only thing equally invigourating is hanging out with business minded people with a spirit of entrepreneurship. I never expected to spend two days with equal parts of each. If you’ve ever been interested in doing something like this and thought you wouldn’t fit because you don’t code – think again.
In my event walk-about I met Charles. Upon asking Charles what he did out in the real world; he let me know that he’s a Sign Language Teacher. After finding his place on a team that he clicked with; they decided to create an automated personal trainer with a social twist. Charles played an integral part in coming up with use cases; writing and recording sound-bites; and many other aspects of the project.
One of the greatest no-code success stories at this competition was Catherine and Eric – a team of two; neither of which had a coding background. I won’t go into great detail on these two as their story deserves a separate post. You’ll just have to keep checking back for that one.
If you read my article on day one you know that the challenge was to come up with an innovative app that uses an all-in-one pc and a smart phone. The teams did not disappoint!
After two days of animated conversations and head-down coding – and even some through-the-night coding – it was time for the teams to show what they had created. The apps presented ranged in category from education and safety to health and just insanely fun.
First up, A small toaster-oven sat on the judges table hooked to a circuit board. What on earth could this thing be? Pizza Magic of course! This cool little contraption could talk to the cloud and relay the conversation to your phone. You might be wondering why you’d want your toaster-oven to talk to you. Let’s say you started to heat up a pizza and walked away. Your oven (or microwave) could tell you when it’s up to temperature – the exact temperature in fact – and when your pizza is done. It could even send an alert to your phone if the pizza started to burn. I wonder if they could get the voice of William Shatner to be the alert? “Your – Pizza – IS – about – to – BURN!” You know you can picture it.
Over the next couple of hours I was astonished with the myriad of cool creations.
The human piano had the crowd roaring with laughter as the presenter twisted and contorted in what could only be described as the Elaine-Dance; his tablet responding with the malotic keystrokes of an electric piano.
Gretchen, a small robotic arm, sent a hush through the entire room as we listened to the presenter have a conversation with Siri – resulting in a small plant being watered by Gretchen.
Safe Circle had us contemplating a safer world with an app that – when coupled with a law enforcement provided ankle bracelet – would alert a victim if their offender came within 300 feet of them.
Team Leverage motivated us with their automated personal trainer that could sense how many sit-ups you were doing; tell you if any of your buddies were at the gym; and even speak motivational phrases as you worked-out.
You can find pictures of the event and some of the cool creations on my twitter feed @webpreneuernerd.
You should really get to a hackathon if you’re. . .
- an entrepreneur that would like to meet developers, other entrepreneurs, or just people that love tech
- looking for talent for your company! Seriously, there’s no better way to see how someone will thrive on a team than going to a hackathon event.
- a person that gets a kick out of meeting new people and building an idea from concept to creation
- just wanting to nerd out for a weekend 🙂
Be sure to follow @alex_donn on Twitter to find out where he’ll be next!