Hackathon Rzeszów 2019

Hackathon Rzeszów is a 24-hour programming marathon. This year it took place in Aeropolis Park (Jasionka) on the 29-30th of March. It was our second start in this event. We participated in the first one in 2017. We liked the atmosphere and organization, so we decided to return and enjoy some time spent on brainstorming and coding.

Let’s start

Our team consisted of 3 people – Vlad, Michał and me. Unfortunately, Bartek was not able to make it, so we didn’t have the same squad as in 2017. We are pretty thick in our specializations, so we had no problem with dividing responsibilities – Vlad is a frontend and mobile magician, Michał and I are backend craftsmen.

We went to Rzeszów with no idea for the app we could develop. It didn’t matter for us – “we will find it out!“. After arriving at the venue, we registered, put our stuff on the table and went out. It took us about 1,5h to find and discuss the idea that we wanted to develop in the next 24 hours. We had a clear vision afterward. We planned a scenario that we wanted to show on the presentation before writing any line of code. Thanks to that we could focus on the essential parts – MVP.

Coding

The application consists of three main parts: a mobile app, chrome extension, and backend service. Developing the last one went very fast. We had a working API for mobile and plugin in about 5 hours.

The most problematic part was the Chrome extension. We had a lot of problems with even the simplest tasks. There are two reasons for that – we didn’t know the API, and we didn’t understand the underlying architecture. Vlad and Michał spend the majority of their time fighting with it. 6 hours before the end of the event we had almost nothing. We lost our motivation. We made some progress after another two hours. The plugin was partially ready and offered minimal functionality. Motivation was back.

The second problem blow up immediately after resolving the previous one. When we started developing the mobile app, we spot some significant issues with the development environment. We had to reinstall some of its parts. To overcome this issue we were trying different approaches. For example, we changed the framework for the mobile app two times in 2 hours – from React to Cordova and back to React. When Michał and Vlad were facing those problems, I started working on the final presentation.

Fortunately, 1 hour before the finals our MVP was done. There were many hacks and shortcuts, but they didn’t matter. We had something to present.

Finals

There were two types of presentations. The first one was for the jury from out category (we competed in the Line of Business category). We had about 5 minutes to convince them to give us a chance to show our project on the main stage. The second presentation took place on the scene, and it was for everyone.

Preparing the presentation was challenging. The app that we developed is somewhere between technology and business. We had to convince business people that the technical problem that we solved is pretty standard. We had to have a boundary that we couldn’t cross. Not only could have we lost time but also judges’ attention.

Twenty minutes before the presentation the jury had changed. We were selected to be visited by guys that were judging the IoT path. It was not as popular as LoB, so they had no more work to do. This change meant two things: we could be more technical, and we needed to readjust our presentation.

The presentation itself went pretty good. The judges seemed to be interested. They asked us a few questions that let us polish the business values behind our idea. They gave us a chance to be on the main stage. Great!

If we had had a regular business app, it wouldn’t have been any challenge. But we didn’t, so we had to change the presentation again. The wider audience was not as technical as the jury was. We needed to present something that everyone would understand and become fired by the idea.

From our point of view, the second presentation went excellent. For us it was the best presentation that we have ever given. If you are interested, you can watch it below. Starting at 28:00:

We got the results 30 minutes after the presentation. We were lucky enough to win the Line of Business category. It seems that the audience liked our idea. Another great achievement!

What was different?

We have been taking part in hackathons for about three years. We started in 2016 with Pekaton. I always do a small retrospective after every contest I take part in. It doesn’t matter if it is a hackathon or a running race. In the case of Hackathon Rzeszów, many things were different compared to the previous programming marathons.

First of all, we went there with no expectations. We wanted to have fun and socialize a bit. We had no pressure, and we were not in a rush.

Secondly, we spent time discussing the idea. We see that this is what pays off every time. I feel that, for us, hackathons are more about providing business solutions than programming 24 hours. It is the thing that has changed over the years – the first marathon was about technologies, frameworks, and toys for small boys. Now we concentrate on solving problems and providing solutions. The main reason behind this change is that we are growing as developers. We now understand that programming is not about writing programs in the freshest technologies. Programming is about solving business problems. If there hadn’t been any business problems, there wouldn’t have been any programming language. Simple but not obvious.

The last thing is related to pair programming. In summary, there was about 1 hour when our three machines were running simultaneously. In the rest of the time, we were doing pair programming. In the beginning, Michał and I were developing the backend. Then Michał joined Vlad, and they were working on the Chrome extension. By the end, we were sitting in front of one computer. Teamwork makes the dream work! As you can see, it works 🙂

Conclusion

It was a great pleasure to visit Hackathon Rzeszów once again. Big congratulations to organizers. You guys have created a fantastic environment for such contests. We are looking forward to visiting you in the next year.

I want to say big thanks to Vlad and Michał. It wouldn’t be possible without you! It is always a great pleasure to work with you 🙂

Congratulations to all the winning teams from the other categories. Keep on doing your work!

One more thing, shout out to organizers for providing the best internet connection that we have ever seen on any hackathon. Great job guys!

Featured image: facebook.com

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