My First Hackathon - A Day at the Ji-V Hack with Team KeyLimeTie

Andy presenting Team KeyLimeTie's app at the Ji-V Hack Presenting Team KeyLimeTie's app at the Ji-V Hack

This past weekend I attended my first hackathon: the Ji-V Hack. After a long day and a lot of fun, our team came in 2nd place. I learned a lot in the process and hope to participate in another hackathon soon.

In the morning when I arrived, I first walked around and talked with a few of the other participants. Our team then assembled and we listened to the organizers describe what we needed to do. Team KeyLimeTie consisted of Richie (senior software engineer), Jennifer Wittman (designer) and me (software engineer). At the last minute, the organizers assigned us a new member—a beginner developer named Austin. Austin is in high school and participates in the 21st Century Youth Project, a program that teaches students mobile development. We got the opportunity to mentor him as we built our app, and he was a helpful addition to our team.

Team KeyLimeTie building their apps Our team building our apps (Clockwise from top left: Jennifer, Richie, Andy, Austin).

This hackathon challenge was to develop a mobile website and app that benefitted GiveForward, a company that helps people raise funds for loved ones in medical need. The website and the app actually had two different purposes. The mobile site would show a profile, easily accept donations, and let people share using social media. The mobile app was to be a tool for the fundraiser manager, who is often a loved one championing a sick person’s cause. GiveForward’s staff suggested the app let managers update the fundraiser news page, see who has donated, send thank you notes to donors, and offer a social media sharing tool.

Once we got started, our team discussed our approach. Richie and I have C# .NET experience, so we decided to create the mobile website in MVC3. Richie built the website, and I built the mobile app for Windows Phone 7. As Austin was learning Java programming on Android, we decided to give him a crash course in C# so he could help me develop the WP7 app.

Andy with Motorola Product Manager Jinnan Sun Me posing with Motorola Product Manager Jinnan Sun, who awarded me my new Droid Pro phone.

Austin took to C#/WP7 development quite well. I asked questions to make sure he had a good understanding of what I was showing him. Once his developer tools were all set up, I asked him to create a page for the mobile app and to ask me questions.

By the end of the day, Richie and Jennifer had a prototype mobile website up in MVC3. Austin had created a few pages for our mobile app, and I showed him how his pages would integrate into mine. I was chosen to present to the judges and other teams, then it was time to wait. I watched the other presentations and a martial arts performance that was held while the judges deliberated.

At long last, the staff announced the winners, and we won 2nd place! We also received a surprise award for the team that did the most to mentor their student teammate. I was excited to receive a special mention for helping Austin along with a Droid Pro phone. Austin won a Blackberry Pearl for being the first student to show a prototype of a mobile app he helped develop.

Overall, I had a fun experience at the Ji-V Hack and I’m really looking forward to more hackathons in the future.

Update: MotoDev posted this article outlining the Ji-V Hack on their blog, and kindly mentioned KeyLimeTie and me.