Jonathan Segal / January 29, 2019
6 min read
My first hackathon! At the beginning of the school year, I decided to sign up for as many hackathons as I could. The first one on my list to go to was this one so that Friday night I got in my car and started the 2-hour drive to the University of Iowa. I read about these events but being my first time I really had no idea what to expect. I stayed at my parent’s house that Friday night close to Iowa City and went to the university first thing Saturday morning for the start of the event at 8:45 am.
After I checked in I went to go look for a team to work with. Surprisingly there were quite a few people from Iowa State at the event. I found a team from Iowa State and after the opening ceremony, we got to work.
Our project was to gamify exercise by using the time one was on a bike as currency to redeem as time spent on the internet.
I first started trying to create a site using React and found that learning something entirely new in just a few hours is not the best use of time at a Hackathon.
Eventually, I figured out our problem. We were doing a few things wrong such as file structure and the naming schemes so what I did was create a new project that was the simplest possible way to have everything working. I created a Repository with the code used for this. Simple Flask jQuery integration
When we got back the next morning we laid out a plan of what we needed to get done before 1 pm when hacking ended. We were almost done with our project we just needed to integrate what I built over the night into our project and put the finishing touches on our project.
Everything was connected and working except for one part of the project. The computation for the data was not working on the python script. We ended up feeding random data to the front end and displaying a console log of the rotation directly from the python script.
We ended up submitting our project on hackerearth without it fully functioning. We called our project Rasberry Pike
The goal of the project was create a correlation between physical work and virtual data flow. With this idea in mind we brainstormed a simple pedal bike connected to a stationary trainer. This trainer would have a IR sensor that would read revolution per second. The sensor connects into a micro controller that has a WiFi adapter to broadcast a WiFi signal that the demo computer would pickup. The micro controller would then throttle bandwidth if the physical work dropped below the set timed threshold
The judges came around and we demoed what we had and explained how our project could be used to incentivize exercise and increase physical activity when using a computer.
This event was an incredible learning experience for me. Building a working product in a limited amount of time is a great way to learn how to rapidly come up with ideas and develop fixes for unforeseen problems.
Going into this I had no idea what to expect but after the event, I know how hackathons work. There are a few different objectives one could have when attending one of these events.
Obviously, you can do all of these things at a hackathon but knowing what you want to accomplish is a great way to set expectations and to know if you had a successful event. This was a great first experience for me at a hackathon but it defiantly won't be my last!