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Alan Barr
Alan Barr

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Attending Hack MidWest Hackathon with Veterans United Home Loans

The hackathon team

Hack MidWest Hackathon

This weekend I attended my first hackathon with a bunch of my coworkers. We are participating on two separate teams. Strike Force Alpha, my team, is creating a marketplace for renters and leasors by matching them based on questions they answered based on one of our forms. Building a prototype in 24 hours. The team I am on is composed of one designer Lauren and four developers, myself, Pearse, Michael, and Mark. As we began on our competition we settled on the marketplace idea vs a few other we came up with. We also settled how we were going to manage the code and what technologies we would bootstrap with. For our stack we settled on nodejs and angular for the backend and frontend respectively. Pearse worked on a scaffolding for our backend api service, Michael and Mark worked on setting up angular and getting started with our frontend, and I worked on the build and deploy pipeline as well as using the postgres instance that heroku supports. This pipeline came in handy very quickly and more so near the end as we were able to quickly integrate our code and see the results on a website. Once we began incorporating third party apis the need for a live like site became necessary.

24 Hours is a long churn

I do not think we needed the whole 24 hours but we definitely used it to our fullest. We did our best to focus on what made our product unique. SmartHygge a flipped on its head way to connect renters and lessors together in the housing marketplace. We did our best to think out the experience and build in only the apis that made sense to work with this concept. These were the cloudinary api for images, okta for authentication, the here api for location and map placement, twilio for sms notifications and conversational texting with our rental application form, and the foursquare api for grabbing place locations and categories related to that nearby location.


We Won the prize for best use of the foursquare API!

The foursquare api winners team missing Lauren

We were all surprised that we won any prize at all it was unexpected. I felt like the experience working together on the team and operating closely together while not stepping on each other's toes made us highly successful. The prize is just icing on the cake for such a fun event and wonderful experience. I had an opportunity to sharpen up on my postgres skills and generating mock data to feed our frontend application. We were skeptical of the concept at first but as we eased into the competition we embraced it and began to expand on it. In particular our designer Lauren knocked it out of the park with her designs leveling up our software solutions to a much greater and more professional degree. All the team members pitched in and worked endlessly to make a very cohesive experience. We tried out a lot of ideas and integrating various APIs that some made more progress than others. Overall the experience was a wonderful team building event and while I hope I do not have to stay up 24 hours again I would consider attending with a nice long sleep in the middle of the event.

If you are curious about our end result please feel free to check out SmartHygee I am planning to leave the full site up for a week or two until I relegate it to a screenshot.

Top comments (2)

percyodi profile image
Pearse Hutson

Having been to many hackathons while I was in college, I think I can claim this hackathon as my most successful!

I think there are many factors that went into our success. We are all highly competent developers and we are all driven by writing quality software. I never felt like I had to burden more than my fair share of the work, and it is a great feeling to finish some endpoint or new feature on the backend, and almost immediately the frontend is utilizing it!

This was also my first hackathon with a designer on the team, and I don't think I ever want to go without one again! I am not good at things like color palettes, and certainly can't draw my own illustrations. But having a designer on the team meant that these considerations were met and exceeded. This creates a much more polished looking application; one that I want everyone to look at because it looks so nice.

I am looking forward to working with Alan and the other in future competitions. The hackathon space seems to be more focused on university students, but I hope they become more popular and more professionals will get involved!

alanmbarr profile image
Alan Barr

I totally agree that our designer was essential to our success!