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A few days before the event started I was contacted by the HackTM team to be their official blogger for the event. I would have written about the event regardless, but being announced as the official blogger, I feel like it’s my responsabilty to tell you that this article is not influenced in any shape or form from the team. The thoughts are my own.

Good, now that we’ve gotten than out of the way, time to talk about Hack 2015; the biggest South-Eastern European hackathon.

The atmosphere

Like I said in the first post, it took place in Heaven’s Ballroom Tent. Yes, a tent. Not the kind you’d sleep in, no. It was a closed tent. Nobody is crazy enough to host an event like this in an outdoor open tent. The only problem is that the heaters didn’t handle the cold of the weekend. The event started out on Friday the 6th of November at 18:00 and held throughout the weekend until Sunday the 8th. At first, when people started registering and gathering at the venue, the temperature wasn’t much of a problem. Everybody was rushing to find a table to setup their gear, pitching, socializing, you’d barely feel the cold. When we started settling down and actually started working is when it hit us.

Programming is not a physically intense activity. You just sit at the computer typing away. Not much heat is generated. Image doing this in a room about 15-16 degrees hot for 48 hours. Yeah, it’s brutal. To makes matters worse, people started feeling cold/tired and actually starting leaving. That’s when the temperature started dropping even lower. I wish I had a thermometer with me to see how cold it was. Probably it was a bit hotter than we image (because that’s how our body works), but still. I don’t blame the organizers on this one, they couldn’t have predicted it.

Food and drinks weren’t a problem. The venue included them both (as I was told, could be mistaken about the food, but the drinks were definately provided). Nothing to complain here. On Sunday we had one hot meal (some potatoes, rice and chicken breast in white parmesan sauce - good food in my opinion), on the same evening some appetizers style plateaus (them good too). The following morning we had the same appetizers style plateaus and in the evening, the people at Heaven were kind enough to bake us some pizzas. Everybody loves pizza. It was actually quite good. Though I feel that some people had the misfortune to not taste it. I feel sorry for them. Me and my teammate had like 3 slices together. Seconds were impossible to get. They couldn’t bake as fast as we ate them. Nonetheless is was good pizza.

What we made

We tried to make an app that tracks the location of your friends. Not in stalk-y way, but in a helpful one. I’ve been living in Timisoara for the past 5 years. Alex, my teammate has not. He comes for a visit once in a while, but everytime I gotta send him a Google Maps pin to his phone so he can use his GPS to find his way. What if there’s an app that tells you your friends location? Even gives you a notification when you’re in a set proximity to him? Wouldn’t that be helpful? We thought so, so we built an app that does just that. Or at least tried. At its core it is a Windows 10 Universal Platform App. That means that it can run on virtually anything, since Windows 10 runs (or will run) on anything. This doesn’t has to be an app on your phone. It can be on Windows 10 IoT powered Raspberry Pi in your car. Unfortunately the jury didn’t decided that our app was in the top 3 of the Open Track, which segways beatifuly into the next section.

Available tracks for participation

There were 6 development track available:

  • City Projects
  • Automotive
  • eHealth
  • Game Development
  • Open
  • Junior Lead Coding

Since our idea didn’t really fit anywhere else, we opted for the Open Development track. There were a lot of different and interesting projects in each and every track. The most interesting by far was Snowboard trainer. Different sensors mounted on the board and on the boots monitored pressure and a micro-controller crunched the numbers to tell your how you should adjust your position so you’d be in the correct stance. Quite the thing to achieve in 48 hours. I’d also like to point out that this project was the Grand Prize Winner: a ticket to Mobile World Congress in February 2016.

Judging the competition

The only problem I have with the organizers is that they pressured most of the teams to push their code on github. We did, but some of the teams (CarOS for example - the same name should be on github, it’s not) haven’t. Another thing I have is that some of the teams kinda broken the spirit of a hackathon. In a hackathon you go and build something from scratch in the allocated time. You don’t come with code you’ve been working on for a few months. I’ve seen some projects on git that have commits are far back as 5 years. That’s probably a fork, but c’mon. Adding a feature to an already functioning app is not hacking, it’s upgrading. Hacking is when you take multiple stuff, mash ‘em together and hope you get something new and interesting.

Another thing I have is they were teams that were about 8 members big, when most of the teams were 3-5 people max. They should limit the teams to a maximum of 5 memebers. And don’t you come 2 teams with 5 members where Team1 does FeatureA for App X and Team2 does FeatureB for the same app. No. This needs to be checked, not sure how, but it should.

This problem was here last year too.

The thing that they did improve was the judging process. Instead of 30+ teams presenting their app and judging by the presentation, which takes a humongous amout of time, the jury of the each track, made a preselection of the top 3 finalists of each development track. These 3 finalist would present their hack to the whole crowd. That way we didn’t spend as much time to wait for the grand prize winner announcement and we didn’t get bored. Let’s face it, when 30 some teams keep on talking on talking after 48 hours of hacking, kinda gets boring fast.

Final thoughts

All in all, the second edition of HackTM (HackTM 2015) was an interesting event. It had it’s downsides (the cold, slight annoyances with the team sizes), but there are signs of improvement from the team. I’m sure it will be better next year.

It was a pleasure being there, amongst my fellow geeks and hackers. Don’t stop hacking…

Title image source: HackTM Facebook

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Robert Iagar


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Robert's Blog

Software Engineer. .NET Developer. Amateur Photographer. Drum & Bass DJ. Welcome to my blog!

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