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Jose Tomas Gonzalez
Jose Tomas Gonzalez

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Route to second place at Facebook's Hackathon Chile 2018

First of all, congratulations to Facebook for doing an amazing event such as the one this April 14-15th. Hackathons are not only a space for competing but also a space to think, learn, share, meet new people and have a great time!

It all started when Facebook sent an email inviting us to participate to their annual hackathon at Chile. The hype was huge, some teammates and I participated last year and it was such a really good experience that we wanted to participate on this year's hackathon at almost any cost.

But first... What is a hackathon?

In the software development world, hackathons are a "competition" that consists of starting and finishing a project in (normally) a 24-hour time gap. The idea behind this is to explore what can be done by the teams in such a short period of time, discover new ideas and most of all have a fun time hacking.

Starting a project?

Gathering a team is a key point because team-work is the base of hackathons, the hurry forces teammates to split tasks and responsibilities and only a good and organized team will be able to succeed. This usually is the most difficult part of a hackathon because teams must also come up with an idea that is interesting enough to attract the judge attention but small enough to be able to develop it in 24 hours.

Once the team comes up with an idea, activities, food and lots of caffeine are brought to keep eryone alive during the day and night. The Facebook team are experts at keeping their participants with a good mood and providing an excellent environment.

It must be finished!

As time passes, the teams are challenged with development situations that must be handled at a minimum time cost. My obsession with clean code is always challenged here because you have to do almost anything to finish your project. It's fun to see the hacks that teams come up with, just to solve problems that in other situations would have taken more time.

Not everything is code

The most important part of a hackathon is presenting your project! All that effort that transformed your idea into a project must be shown in order for others to see and appreciate what the team managed to put together. Also explaining the idea, usefulness and impact are key items to succeed.

In short, what the team and I did?

First we named Mobike Avengers because an internal joke with Mobike, the city's public bike system. Since nobody on the team had ever developed VR we still we managed to develop a fully functional VR classroom in 24 hours in which students were able to connect to a webpage using their cellphones, a VR headset and see a screen on one of the virtual walls displaying the webcam of the teacher. Also the teacher could trigger timed quizzes and students had to interact with virtual items to choose the correct answer.

The presentation had to be inclusive, because half of the judges were not programmers. The team had two minutes to present the project in a way that showed the technical complexity behind but also the usefulness and/or impact of the idea. Some teams had amazing projects, but failed when presenting them.

After all that, the team and I managed to get the second place and an awesome backpack courtesy of Facebook. My last Facebook Hackathon as a student since I will be out of University by January, but an awesome experience that I recommend to everyone interested!

Original article posted at my Linkedin

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