Nashville Software School Hackathon. (Skill++)

First annual Nashville Software School Hackathon

Over the weekend Nashville Software School held it first annual school Hackathon. The purpose of the hackathon was for current students and alumni to meet, mix, and build projects. It was helpful to for new students to see how a hackathon works and for the former students to give back to the school.

The teams were built to include a mix of skill levels and created so no one from the same cohort would work together. My team included a couple of students that were just a month into their programs, one that was finishing the front end portion, one that graduated a couple of months ago, another that is about 2 months into backend course,  Me that graduated early last year and our team lead that graduated in 2015.

The Challenge

To kick off the event, everyone gathered in the Hackery, the large open space on campus. We we were given a brief introduction and then challenged to build.
Our team went to our assigned location and began brainstorming on what to build. Greg, our team lead asked “What would have helped you early on, what did you have trouble with?” We came up with list of problems areas and decided to focus on JavaScript functions, because if you don’t understand functions it will be hard to code.

We brainstormed possible solutions we could build in the time limit. We decided to use the similarities between music and code and to help explain JavaScript functions. We chose “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to show repeated lyrics as reusable code and explain parameters.

We whiteboarded a basic layout of the app. Greg wrote  some user stories, that we could break down in to tickets. About then was the call that the building was closing, we could continue to code but everyone had to leave for the night. So we planned to write more tickets over night, Angela worked on a Mock up.

We met back in the morning with new ideas and more tickets. We divided the project and started building, We did some paired programming. We talked to each other and shared ideas. We even had a visit from NSS Coach Steve. I was part of his first cohort. Slowly throughout the day our app came into focus. The application worked and it looked good.

Demo Time

Time was called, then all teams headed to the hackery. There were monitors set up on desks arranged in the center of the room. The teams presented their projects in science fair style. For alumni it was a reminder of demo day for current students a glimpse of what was waiting down the line.

This was different from demo day instead of sharing project with potential employers we were sharing with fellow developers, friends and family. I walked around and saw all the projects. The projects included git hub quizzes, flash cards, a resume builder, a read the room mixer app, and a Pokemon based CSS quiz. The apps were amazing.

Some of the instructors and staff were judges. I was very nervous when my old TAs came around. They saw my code back when I didn’t how to use the command line. Did Joe just say impressive?

Michael demos our project to Zoe, Joe, and Lauren. Super nervous Joe and Zoe were my first TAs.

Then students, alumni, friends and family got to vote for their favorite the judges would consider that in the scoring.

Design and ease of use: Judges look at the apps as a whole – does it look good? Does it have a consistent feel from one page to another? Is it easy to use? Is using it intuitive?

Functionality: Judges look at the apps as a whole – does it work? Are there some cool features? Do the features make sense? Is the app useful?

Public Opinion: friends and family got to vote for their favorite application.

Then we waited..

Finally the judges, organizers and staff came out. They thanked everyone for attending and talked about some new stuff for the school data science, front end & UI class.

and then they announced they winners. …..

And the Ducks go to

Third place went to Git Good for an application that let the user practice Git commands.
Second Place went to Total Eclipse, our app! Holy variables, batman! Man did that feel good.

The Team, Front row: Michael, Heather, Javon, back row: Chris, Greg, Kelly, not pictured Angela.

We even got trophy, a gold duck for rubber ducking!
You can see the app here.

First Place went to TIL. An app for sharing “Today I learned” items. It had  Slack integration and voting.

What Did I Learn

It was a great weekend.  We took an idea and 25.5 hours later we had an app. It felt good to build something that could help aspiring new developers. The school hackathon was the Brainchild of Coach, but it was organized by the Alumni. I was a member of the planning committee it was great to see this from start to finish.

I learn new shortcuts, a way to write tickets using user stories and some new git tricks. But more importantly I got to give back to the community.

Interested in reading more on the event, checkout the NSS Blog and see the winning three applications.

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