Oh, Hollywood. You’ve done it again. You’ve rolled out the red carpet, strung up the velvet ropes, and put on a dandy hackathon worthy of a
Oscar Kids Choice Award. Last year, it was Hollywood Hackday, held at one of the largest talent agencies in world, UTA. Just this past weekend, it was the Burbank Game Hack held at Nickelodeon Animation Studios. It was a star-studded hackathon, including the likes of the CTO of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Blue Power Ranger (de-morphed in regular human clothes) and of course, Spongebob Squarepants.
The NASA JPL team giving a fascinating talk about big data hacking.
The hackathon was held in true marathon style — kicking off on a Friday evening, and going full-throttle until Sunday night. Nickelodeon kept the doors open, all day and night. I asked one of the many security guards if he had any idea what we were doing there and he responded, “Oh yeah. Building apps. But are you people really going to stay up all night and keep working?” To which I responded, “Does Spongebob live in Bikini Bottom?”
Kimberly pitching her phone call reminder app.
Catherine (“Cat”) Rhee organized and produced the Burbank Game Hack. Her creative energy and orchestration fueled and sparked things from the start. Her ice-breaker before the idea pitch session had everyone in the room (over 100 people) exchanging handshakes. She then divided everyone into skill-set groups. (e.g. developers, designers, etc.) Her social and team-building exercises were the pillars of the event’s success.
The Challenges, The Hacks
The hackathon had both an “open challenge” (creativity and innovation) and a “youth development, healthy living and social responsibility challenge.” You can see the 17 submissions on the Hacker League page; however, about 20 teams got up on stage to demo. Here’s a list of the winners, as well as a few other notable hacks that we enjoyed:
Youth Development, Healthy Living & Social Responsibility Challenge:
- 1st place: Youth Act On It - an app that allows civically minded folks to quickly create an event within their community. For instance, if I identified an opportunity for social or civic good, I could post this event up on Youth Act On It, which would then be made visible to others who would come on board to volunteer. The app was built by Murriel Perez, Ana Khachatrian, Aurora Brown and Erin Siggard.
- 2nd place: Article 3D - an app built by an epic team (at least six people). This team build a web app for kids to share science project ideas and explorations, and allows for other kids to respond and offer peer reviews. Their goal was to get kids interested in exploring science in virtual and safe ways.
Erin, Alejandro and Robert pitching uWatch.
- 3rd place: uWatch - an app built by Alejandro Santiago, Robert Malonzo, Miguel Malonzo and Erin Siggard. This team built a cross-platform mobile app that allows neighbors to report crimes, wrong-doings or any bad incidents taking place in their neighborhood. The reports are viewable by other uWatch members in the neighborhood, and reported incidents are anonymous. They used Appery.io, a cross-platform app development platform, to build their app. You can view it here.
Open Challenge (Creativity and Innovation):
- 1st place: Dr. Atom - a game built by two French students, Stephane Gleizes and Cyril Conraud. The goal of the game is to craft basic ingredients (such as vinegar or sugar) by buying and assembling atoms. No description can do this demo justice. These guys hit it out of the park — building a game the get kids interested in science, and doing so with fantastic creative and artistic execution. Très très bon!
- 2nd place: Amelia - an app built by 10th grader Zach Latta and college student Andrew Downing. Amelia is an app for parents to keep track of their children as they change location. Zach and Andrew tapped into the Move platform (recently acquired by Facebook) for tracking (device GPS) as well as Twilio’s platform for sending SMS notifications to the parents as the kid moves around. Zach wanted to build this app to keep his parents worry-free, as he is traveling solo more often to tech conferences and meetings in the Bay Area and beyond. Zach built the app using the Go language and deployed it on Google’s App Engine. He also used the Mashery Network API, TomTom for geocoding and reverse geocoding, so that his parents were getting more than just latitude/longitude.
- 3rd place: C3 - an app built by Kimberly Quinn, Jaclyn Glasner and yours truly. Kim and Jackie have never been to hackathon before, nor are they developers; however, during the idea pitch session, Kim took full ownership of center stage and pitched her idea. When the emcee and organizer, Catherine Rhee asked if anyone could help her out, I raised my hand and said, “I will help you build that.” And that we did! C3, which stands for “Call, Coach, Connect” is an app that will guarantee you never miss making that important phone call. Be it a job interview, a personal or professional courtesy call (a “thank you”), or those more difficult sympathy (condolences) calls — you simply schedule the call with C3, which will then remind you with text messages, call you, coach you (over the phone), and then automatically connect you (bridge your call). We used the Twilio API for both SMS and phone calls. We also used the Intel XDK, a cross-platform mobile app development platform, for the framework of the app.
Me with Gemma Busoni and Andrew Downing, winners of Mashery prizes. Andrew’s team mate, Zach Latta, is not photographed.
The Mashery Prize Winners
From across the room I heard someone ask, “Is there an API for geocoding?” It was Zach Latta, who built Amelia (see above). Faster than Spongebob can flip a Krabby Patty, I had Zach making API calls on the TomTom API (http://developer.tomtom.com). He used the MapToolKit API, and more specifically, the reverse geocoding method. This helped him convert the lat/lon into a place name. Team Amelia won the prize for the Best Use of a Mashery API. The pair each took home an Amazon.com gift card.
During the demos, there was a team of young kids that built a game called, “Zero to Hero”. It was an RPG (role playing game) that encouraged players to lead an active lifestyle. One of the team members, Gemma Busoni, is a high school student that studies robotics and computer science. She helped her team built a great app, powered through a weekend of hacking, and helped pull off a smooth demo. Gemma won our prize for the Best High School Student Hacker, also taking home an Amazon.com gift card.
#LATech Represents — again!
The LA tech/hack community came through again, demonstrating community, creativity and execution. From the developer perspective, when non-hackers came through the doors, people that have never been to a hackathon, the technical folk welcomed them to their teams, utilized their non-technical skills, and executed. From the tech sponsor perspective, companies like Microsoft (great Unity3d workshop), MongoDB (such evangelist), and Mashery had technical evangelists on site giving workshops and providing support for the hackers all weekend long. From the product sponsors, we had amazing food, snacks and prizes. From the community sponsor perspective, NASA JPL’s involvement was fantastic (Tomas Soderstrom kicking off with keynote to judging at the end), and the YMCA supplied a constant flow of energetic volunteers to staff and support the event. Also, big ups to Nickelodeon Animation Studios for opening up your doors to our hacking masses — your space is beautiful and perfect for hackathons. And last, but not least, thank you to Catherine Rhee, the organizer and producer of this event!