I had the pleasure of judging the last Queen City Hack hosted by Gas Buddy. I was BLOWN AWAY! These teams created some amazing applications, working applications, applications designed beautifully, ALL IN 24 HOURS!!! I couldn’t believe what these teams created and was incredibly surprised! I left inspired, the future is looking very bright. Here are 5 reasons you should get involved with the next Hack-a-Thon:
1. What you learn to do in that short amount of time is incredibly valuable.
Several teams had to learn the language they were going to use. What’s special is that they said it like it was expected. Almost as though if you weren’t learning something new, you were unlikely to win. What other competition entails you to learn something new during the competition?!?
The fact that every participant had learned several coding languages already and to learn one or two more wouldn’t be that difficult.
I wish you could have seen the conviction of these folks, they were incredibly courageous. Full blown working apps in 24 hours, I’ve seen companies pay a lot of money for similar apps, my mind was blown. It honestly made me want to start an app company.
2. The people you meet and work with are the first members of your “tribe”.
We all need a tribe, we all need to belong. After working tirelessly for 24 hours, you connect at an intimate level. Not just with your team either. The friends you make at Hack-a-Thon’s could be your friend for life. The social circles created at these events are very powerful over time. The students have no idea the value they’re creating, being a part of Hack-a-Thons.
To this day, I keep in contact with people who I met at conferences in University from out of province. The one thing we all had in common was we conferenced together. Many people at these Hack-a-Thons don’t realize it but they’re growing their social circle, one project at a time.
— SaskInteractive (@SaskInteractive) October 1, 2017
3. Facing a difficult problem with others brings you closer together.
If you want to get along better with a group of people, do something challenging together. From Ori and Ram Brafman’s Click they talk about how going through something extremely difficult with other people bonds you on a completely different level. You struggle together, you triumph together, there’s something about facing a great challenge that really humanizes you. You never forget the best teams you’ve been on. Think about it, whether it be sports, work, or at a conference, whenever you do something major with a group of people you meet them on a different level.
Royal LePage does a trek every two years on behalf of their shelter foundation where staff have to raise money and pay their way to Machu Picchu or Iceland last year. Everyone comes back saying it was hard, but it was equally amazing. Royal LePage is growing their people on those trips. I think that’s some of the best teamwork/leadership training there is. Hack-a-Tons are like an insane digital trek that these folks undertake. It’s never easy but it’s always fulfilling.
— Life at GasBuddy (@lifeatgasbuddy) September 30, 2017
4. Failure is part of the learning.
Only one team can win. So they are also teaching how to deal with failure. By in large, the team that wins isn’t competing for the first time. That means most teams have competed, failed, and came back ready for more. It’s also inspiring to see what the other teams create. There’s a healthy commodore between teams, they cheer for each other, it’s not a dog eat dog culture that you might expect.
Even if you don’t win or your app didn’t work, what you’re practicing is how to launch a product in 24 hours which is ridiculous and insane! But it’s also the best way to learn something, immerse yourself in it for 24 straight coffee induced hours. I’m sure this is why many workshop companies are starting to offer services like a “24 hour marketing plan”! Why the heck not? Based on Parkinson’s Law, these teams are going to get the job done, only 10 times faster than the average developer.
5. The programming languages used not only teach what’s possible, it gives you a glimpse into how other developers are creating.
So to put it into perspective here are some of the programming languages that were used:
Android (Oreo), Kotlin, Firebase for push notifications, MongoDB, express.js, angular.js, node.js, Slack SDK, Smooch.io, C#, WPF, Core PHP (MVC), MySQL, HTML5, CSS, JS (ES6), LNAMP Server Stack, OctoberCMS, Sails, and api.ai.
Sometimes you can learn more by being around these people for a couple of hours rather than taking a class or training.
I haven’t used or heard of any of these, besides HTML5 only because I took HTML1? in Computer Science 100. I felt very old, uneducated and lost at times. I left that night thinking I need to learn more, faster.
Hack-a-Thons are basically a microcosm of learning. Fast-paced, extremely valuable learning. The team that won the Queen City Hack-a-Thon used an artificial intelligence API to organize messages coming into CcRezQ based on the information received. The app would take a message like “just adopted Barry cocker spaniel, boy, 1 year old has shots, mild mannered is neutered.” And set the dog up a profile within the application including a picture of the dog. So the Artificial Intelligence reads Barry as name, cocker spaniel as bread, boy as sex, 1 year old as age, mild mannered as behaviour, and neutered as medical history. The application then takes that information and creates an online profile and can even attach a picture all from a simple text message.
The judges were blown away. I had never seen anything like it, let alone built in 24 hours!
Not only was the winning team’s app amazing, we saw at least four other applications that were brilliantly designed; something you’d find in the App Store for purchase. Some teams gave you their phone to actually interact with their app. I had an absolute blast judging, I can’t wait for the next one!
— Life at GasBuddy (@lifeatgasbuddy) October 3, 2017