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Everything Happens So Much: Hackathon Part 2

First, going to start out with the crazy stuff that's happened so far, leading up to (and including) the Friday ceremony (WE WON), then going to write out a blow-by-blow of how the Hackathon went because I want to and OmarGone said she would read it so there.

Okay, crazy stuff: instead of taking a nap I stayed up and made a joke to the guy who ran the Hackathon, who I'll call Donald, that I needed his email to send him my resume before I start day drinking. He responded with just his email and I kind of assumed that now that our Hackathon relationship was over, he was done being friendly because he's a busy dude and probably has more important things to do in his life than banter with a 21 year old college student. But then later he actually texted me first ("How's day drinking?") and since then we've been texting back and forth, not about business but just talking so now I consider him my friend which is GREAT. It's nice to have another friend! Also he said he's trying to set up another Hackathon for the spring, which I'll be able to participate in before I graduate. I am so incredibly psyched.

Then on Tuesday my team member got an email from Innovation Park, the place that hosted the Hackathon, saying they were so impressed with our app that they're offering us free space to work and business advice until the end of the year. Literally all we have to do is have business milestones in place that we try to reach and be able to get to the site. I love coding but have zero knowledge on how to commercialize something, and one of my ideas has to do with contacting major businesses (zoos, amusement parks, colleges) and I wouldn't even know how to get started with that so I'm super grateful to be able to spend an hour a week hashing this out with someone who knows how to business. We're going to meet with them on Monday, as soon as we could get it because one of our team members is crazy busy today and yesterday.


Then today, Friday, we got to go to the ceremony and get our actual award - $333.33 each in Apple gift cards (which I'm definitely trading in for cash, it's worth the 30 bucks loss), and a trip in December to Plano for 3 nights. The way they put it, it sounds like it's going to be in the middle of the week, so I'm going to miss a ton of class while my school is super cold to go SOUTH and MEET PEOPLE YAYYYY.

Okay, now that I've described why everything happens so much, I'm going to go back and give a blow by blow of the Hackathon. Feel free to skip it if you're not interested; it's going to be long. :)

So I got there at about 6PM on Friday, maybe a few minutes earlier, because I assumed a lot of people would already be there (the event started at 6PM). That was not true. The vast majority of people there were the people that worked there, and it was not what I expected at all. I wasn't sure what to do and was freaking out a little bit, but then I saw a guy around my age sit down alone at a table, looking just as awkward as I felt. So I sat down with him, introduced myself, and we started talking. Let's call him Jerry. We were both nerdy, but in entirely different ways - I would talk about the mega-evolutions of Pokemon and he would talk about how excited he was for his new $50 Yu-Gi-Oh card to arrive in the mail. But we got along fairly well, and soon another guy joined our group and his friend came and we had a nice group of four chatting away about nothing. While we were chatting, one of the senseis (what they called the people there to help us) named Travis joined our table and mentioned that he works for a company in town that creates mobile apps. I got very excited and started talking about how I want to work in town when I graduate, and he gave me his email and said they both had in-school internships (head over there a few hours a week) and jobs available after graduation. Also he told us that the Pope uses an S3 (he made the first mobile app that the Church officially condoned, so he knows a lot about the Vatican and technology). Then he went to make more of the rounds, and even if the Hackathon had ended there I would have been satisfied because I accomplished what I set out to do, and I thought nothing could top meeting someone who basically offered me an internship/job in town (I was wrong).


Then there was a short Q&A with John Donovan, the executive vice president of AT&T. The thing that stuck with me most about his talk was the talk of how all items should be smart - he talked about an umbrella having a chip in it that read the weather and glowed if the chance of rain was more than 40%. I probably spent the rest of the night looking at items and wondering how they could be made smart like that. When the actual Hackathon started, the way it was set up was that a bunch of people came up and shared their ideas, and then people who didn't have ideas picked teams. One of the guys, I'll call him Mark, had an idea that to me sounded interesting enough and not too difficult - that was Beacon. So as soon as the listening stage was over I sought him out and told him I wanted to work on his project, with Jerry tagging along so we were a group of 3. Mark initially started looking for someone who was excellent at coding, but couldn't find anyone because most people there were just beginners so we decided on just the three of us and started working.

The initial plan was to have an app where you had a friends list based on phone numbers, could pick out of that list who could see the beacon you were sending out and then the other person searched via phone number. But putting the friends list into practice turned out to be way too time-intensive, so we went for passwords instead, which turned out to be a good idea because then we could push the "privacy angle" of our app. We first considered using PhoneGap, writing a code on a page and then pushing it to both iOS and Android to make it work, but Travis advised us that it would probably be faster to just make two native applications, so we scrapped that and went with what we knew best - Mark with his xcode, me with my java, and Jerry with graphics and presentation. Once we decided what to do, we worked up until the space closed at midnight, and then Mark and I both worked more at home before the next day. Everyone else seemed to leave early.


The next day was supposed to start at 10, but I was literally the first person in just a few minutes before - the second was Mark, the third Jerry. Only 15-30 minutes later did other teams start trickling in, some around noon. The leaving early and coming in late confused me to no end; didn't they realize they only had ~20 hours to work? Either way my group was well on its way to finishing both apps, and we had a killer presentation. Because so few people were there in the morning, we basically got to monopolize multiple senseis to figure out our technical aspects; meanwhile, Jerry was making us a logo, an icon, and a splash screen. We skipped lunch and kept working through it. I honestly have no idea what even happened outside of our work because we were so single-minded, but I assume other people were working hard as well, haha. But then again maybe not since they all left early and came late!

When it hit 4:30PM, when the presentations were supposed to start, we had both apps finished. The Android one that I made was not pretty in the least, but it did exactly what we wanted it to do and the iOS one was going to be the one we showed off more anyway. The limit was supposed to be 3 minutes per presentation and no presentations; the first four (3 teams before us, then us) had some kind of presentation and went over. Just after us Donald said everyone else had to stick to a strict time limit, so we lucked out in getting to say everything we wanted to say. Mark is more of a marketer than a coder so he did the presentation, while Jerry operated the computer and I was on standby to work the Android one when we used it - the demonstration consisted of us sending two beacons back and forth between the two apps to prove that they could communicate to one another. The only question we got was whether the map could zoom (it's google maps, duh).


At this point we started thinking it was at least a little likely that we were finalists, as a lot of the apps weren't functional. Also, before judging even started, Donald came to our table and said "if you guys win, I want you to update the app to include SMS functionality. I have the code, I just think it needs it to really shine." I asked if it was a hint and he winked at me. So at this point we were pretty high energy. The last presentation though was adorable - a 9 year old showed off the app he made in some MIT app creator for kids, a game where you collected pearls and avoided sharks. So cute. Then it was over and we had to wait for judging, which was excruciating. Also at this point Boyrax was starting to wonder if I was ever coming home; I had cooked dinner in a crockpot, not anticipating we would be there till after 7 and they would feed us dinner, so he had been smelling the soup since he woke up and was basically dying of hunger.

The judges finally came back, and Mark and I were kind of bad people about it - we were constantly thinking as the other awards were presented things like "That app is our competition, if it wins this award then it probably can't be a finalist as well! Yes!". We didn't win any of the specific awards - they were for best educational app and best ND-related app, neither of which were related to us in any way. Then they mis-announced the finalists, putting one in that didn't belong, and then fixed it and offered to give that team something for letting them down. But we were in the finalists :) A bunch of people from the other table kept looking over and laughing at me freaking out, hahaha. Not in a mean way though; I don't think there was a single mean-spirited person in the room (except maybe Mark and I in our competitiveness).


After the announcement, Mark and Jerry basically skedaddled as fast as possible, but I still had to pack up all my stuff so I was dawdling a bit. That was when the manager of Innovation Park came up to me and said that the local news station wanted to interview one of the finalists, and I would be a good face for the Hackathon as one of very few women and the only woman finalist. Of course I agreed, then commiserated with Donald who apparently had to get up for a 7:30AM interview on Saturday and now had another one on Sunday with me. Poor sleep-deprived Donald. I told him I might be hungover because I had a bottle of rotgut vodka with my name on it and he asked if he could come over because apparently it sounded amazing (dude you probably make a ton of money, just go buy some good vodka for the night).

Then the next day was the interview, which no one told me how to dress so I went with a black skirt and a black and blue long-sleeve shirt - I figured no one would care how I looked because I was just a student and if I really wanted I could get away with jeans and a printed t-shirt but there was no way that was happening. Then I felt underdressed because Donald was in a full suit, apparently that's what they told him to wear. Also my skirt ended up looking a tad short on camera, not so much that I would be called out for it but enough that I was a tad embarrassed. For someone that barely talks on TV though, I think I did pretty well - I didn't 'um' once and only 'like'd one time, and that wasn't a verbal tic, it was just used as a replacement for "for example". On Tuesday I got the tape back and got to review it, but I can't figure out yet how to rip it from the site - when I try the flash file I download is only 24 seconds long, and it's not on Youtube (some internal news site) so I can't really share it too much or embed it anywhere.


On Sunday night Donald was texting me, asking me what fun things there are to do around South Bend since that was his last night here. I had nothing; when I googled "fun things to do in South Bend" I got a chocolate store. There is nothing here. Then he asked if I wanted to code; that was what I was doing anyway, so we met up and coded most of the night. I helped him with a project that involved printing to an LCD screen, but we didn't finish it before I had to go home and do homework. It was really fun though, and that was when he told me he'd be willing to help me with my resume, get me in touch with the vice president of AT&T, teach me a programming language that will get me 80k out of college working from home, and talk to his connections up and down the west coast for a job for me. I have no idea if he's doing this for the other finalists.

Then we loop back to the top of this post, all the things that have happened since Sunday! If you actually read all of that, I commend you because that ended up longer than the paper I had due today. If you didn't, I don't blame you in the least.

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