Saturday, October 25, 2014

My First Hackathon

VTA Hachathon4

Saturday: (10/25) I was up early and walked down to the San Jose Tech Museum. I was there to attend my first Hackathon. A hackathon is a bunch of programmers getting together to program solutions, in this case mobile applications using some of the open data sources provided by government agencies and others. This event was sponsored by the Valley Transportation Agency looking for apps that improve services for their users. I was there because I was invited shortly after Dawn had a bad day with her rides on the VTA's para-transit service, Outreach. Normally, I just consider such messages as wrong numbers but this time I decided to join in and participate in the hackathon and make a submittal. The day started with a nice breakfast provided by Microsoft. That was followed by one minute pitches for app ideas so that attendees could have an idea of what was proposed for development. Those attendees without projects of their own could join into teams. I pitched an app to improve para transit rider services that provided a means of scheduling rides and providing notifications to the customers about the ride status.  Sounds simple but it is quite important to the customers. The data needed for this is not available as open data if it even exists so my app collected all the necessary data. I didn't want any team members mostly because I know they would be using what I was developing with and I didn't want to use anything else. So, I got to work on the app I had proposed. Lunch and dinner were provided as well. While the museum closed at 1700 we could stay until 2100  to work but I decided to return the the San Jose apartment and work there, thus not having to move at closing time. I worked until 0100 and and finished the first draft of the app, enough to submit. I just needed to publish it to my server. Of course, the development software crashed in the process, then my laptop crashed. I couldn't get either to start working so I called it a night. I feared I hadn't saved the app recently enough so though I might have to reinvent the wheel tomorrow.

Sunday: (10/26) Up early again. Another breakfast at the Tech museum. Fortunately, my laptop felt better in the morning and was working again. And, fortunately I had saved the app just before the crash. Lucky me! I didn't do too much more to the app just got it working on the server so it could be used by the judges. It doesn't look good nor work well nor do much of what is proposed but was enough to participate. I finished up the documentation for the submittal and submitted the app about an hour before the deadline. It turns out mine was the first submittal. That turned out to be both good and bad. The application presentations to the judges were to be done in the order received so that meant I was first. I didn't get an opportunity to learn from others mistakes nor to see what should be done. But, it also meant I didn't have to grow progressively more anxious waiting to make my presentation. All went well. I had called Lou and Dawn to come down for the presentation since it got them into the museum for free. Needless to say, I didn't win one of the prizes but did have fun and learn a lot. Here is a link to the submittal and the app link.

VTA Hachathon1 VTA Hachathon2
Above left I'm in the front row, so I can see. Lots of interested hackers attended.

VTA Hachathon3  VTA Hackathon Don's Presentation
Above left the Valley Transportation (VTA) CEO thanked us for our efforts as Dawn and I look on. On the right I'm giving my presentation.

Lunch was up on the roof patio at the Tech Museum. Lou, Dawn and I went out to dinner at Habanna Cuba Restaurant. Dawn was wanting some Cuban food.


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