Hack Arizona is the largest student-led hackathon in the Southwest. Respoke sponsored this year’s event, and I was fortunate enough to be the man on the ground helping the teams get up to speed on web communications and the Respoke framework. I can say without a doubt that this was one of the best hackathons that I have ever been to. Ian Tracey, Dillon Walker, and the rest of the HackArizona team did an absolutely outstanding job by recruiting an incredible group of over 400 collegiate hackers from across the Southwest, securing and setting up a really cool venue in the Science and Engineering Library at the University of Arizona, and managing the crazy 36-hour sprint to finish line. In rare form, the event went off without a hitch. The wi-fi was stable and fast, the mentorship teams knowledgeable and willing, and the Red Bull flowing in a seemingly never ending supply.
Things kicked off on Friday night with a keynote speech by Michele Norin, chief information officer for the University of Arizona, after which the madness officially began. Teams were formed, concepts created, Red Bull consumed (in lethal quantities), and the first lines of code were eagerly typed into several hundred computers. The entire library buzzed with the type of energy and excitement that comes from the promise and potential of a new idea.
Over the next 36 hours, the teams all had the opportunity to learn, experiment, and play with new ideas and new technology. Many of them choosing to use languages and frameworks they had never before laid eyes on. On a personal level, I had the chance to mentor several teams who created some really amazing projects, and I couldn’t be more proud of each and every one of them for stepping out of their comfort zones and stepping up to the challenge of learning something new!
As a sponsor of the event, I was tasked with picking a winning team from among the groups who submitted projects utilizing the Respoke framework. This was no easy task, but in the end, it came down to the team that came up with the most ingenuitive hack. The cleverly named “Team.getName” submitted an application called ShowMe which was able to capture a video stream coming from a Parrot Drone and attach it to a Respoke video connection. This connection was then shared with a remote third party who was able to not only take part in a video call with the drone operator, but also to see exactly what the drone’s camera was seeing. This project had some rather interesting commercial potential (think of a real-estate agent giving a virtual tour of a property, or an architect being able to survey a property from thousands of miles away), and the fact that it came together in a mere day and a half was truly inspiring.
There were a number of other really impressive projects created at the Hackathon, but one in particular, stood out as a favorite among all the attendees. Thomas Pryor created an Arduino based hardware hack which uses a set of flex sensors sewn into a pair of gloves to translate American Sign Language into audible communication.
All in all this was an outstanding event, and I truly look forward to the opportunity to take part in any future events that the team may put together!