Article in hackathon category.
2021 Fueled Hackathon: “Hopeful Reopening”
The 2021 Fueled Hackathon was a great success. Our theme, “Hopeful Reopening,” called for teams to create a product that would be useful as the…
The 2021 Fueled Hackathon was a great success. Our theme, “Hopeful Reopening,” called for teams to create a product that would be useful as the world begins opening up again. The product could either actively help the reopening, or simply be relevant because of the reopening. The teams each had four days over the course of four weeks to ideate, develop, and execute their idea. Upon completion, their product went before a panel of judges, who considered (among other aspects) creativity, user appeal, technical implication, and social impact to select a winner. The Hackathon not only challenged our teams to draw on their creativity, collaborative capacity, and technical expertise, but to create inspiration for a hopeful tomorrow. We set certain technical parameters to ensure an equal playing field. Teams were required to use GraphQL on the backend, and using Cloud Native Applications was encouraged. Teams were asked to develop the application for both iOS and Android platforms using the cross-platform framework Flutter.
Since the objective of the Hackathon was for teams to create as advanced a version of the product as the limited time allowed, efficiently proving the concept may have involved shortcuts such as leaning on existing designs or using libraries. The product didn’t need to be fully functional if its central concept was clear. Developing design, functionality, and branding sometimes proved helpful in service of this goal, but teams that stayed focused and used their time wisely were most successful.
Meet the Competitors
Since going outside very recently felt dangerous, our first team created a game that incentivizes people to go outside again, and to do it in a way that feels safe. Introducing VaxMan: a game where users are encouraged to explore their neighborhood, scoring points for avoiding the unvaccinated. Bringing a sense of levity to a difficult situation was an important value held by this team. And on a more serious note, the team hoped the game might encourage unvaccinated people to get the vaccine. We loved that this game could be played alone or with friends, and that the focus was on fun.
While this team did many things well, they found creating deliverables challenging. VaxMan’s developers needed to not just learn but implement new technologies in only four days.
On the Frontend, the team used Google Playable Locations API for showing cherries on the map. On Backend, the team used FastApi as framework, as well as SQLAlchemy and Alembic for database query and migrations. They used Redis for location database and Geolocation filtering. In the future, they will be working on Websockets for other users’ location updates, Figma for the design, Whimsical for idea generation. While VaxMan scores points for creating an interactive and highly relatable game, they unfortunately weren’t able to communicate their vision as clearly as hoped. We loved the vision and spirit of VaxMan but, like an anti-vaxxer’s “scientific” data, it didn’t quite hold up.
HugFive enables users to reconnect with friends and family by sending virtual “emotions” as they get up in the morning. But, while the HugFive team enjoyed exploring the new technologies encouraged by the Hackathon, their central vision never quite crystalized. Using Flutter, GraphQL, and Retrofit, the HugFive team created a promising start for a product that, due to difficulties coordinating schedules across different time zones and other technical challenges, never quite reached its full potential. We were inspired by the sweet, gentle nature of this app and would love to see something like it in the future.
Safe Travels had a rock solid concept, and serves a real need: helping users travel internationally more safely, with fewer unknowns. Personalized by user location, Safe Travels determines the safest countries to travel to, based on local Covid data and travel restrictions.
While their vision was clear and bold, sick days became a real issue for this team, who also wished they had done more planning in the first two days of the Hackathon. Writing in a new language also proved frustrating and extremely time consuming. Developer days were underutilized, and resourcing could have been allocated better. The team realized it would have been helpful to establish clear expectations from each individual from the outset.
The team used google firestore database, flutter mobile codebase, and the Kayak API to extract Covid data.
We love that this app was personalized based on user location, and that it also provided information about weather. The user could select a location to travel to that was not only COVID safe, but that fit their weather preferences. If this team had made better use of their time, maybe, just maybe, they could have been the Hackathon winner. But that is an unknown not even Safe Travels could solve for.
Since many feel defeated and lost after a year and a half of lockdowns, Dreamz was created to inspire users to dream big again. The app also provides tools to track and fulfill said big dreams. The team used Flutter, which helped maintain a single codebase for both iOS and Android. They used GraphQL on the backend.
Ironically, the Dreamz team struggled to team dream, finding it challenging to brainstorm as a group. They had trouble pacing their work over the course of the four days, and the time crunch proved a challenge. Dreamz was forced to pivot mid-project when they realized their timeline was untenable. They would have been more successful if they had executed the pivot even earlier.
We’re fans of any app that encourages optimism and daring. But Dreamz are one thing; reality, unfortunately, is another.
And the winner is.....
Scramble helps users find last-minute spaces at restaurants, while saving restaurants money from no-shows and non-paying customers. The app also allows people to donate to charities.
This team faced some tough challenges as some members had non-work-related complications. In addition, the Hackathon format had the entire team starting together on the same day, which is not the usual case for client projects and complicated the process. Coordinating teams across different time zones was an added challenge for such a quick project as well.
However, this team had a crystal clear mission: to create an app that solves four major issues restaurants have faced during COVID. They identified these issues as (1) helping restaurants fill last-minute no show tables, (2) minimizing “Dine and dash— people leaving without paying their bill, which is an issue that has grown with the advent of outdoor dining, (3) donating to covid-related charities via round-up option, which helps fund and support problem-stricken areas and those in need of vaccines, and (4) people being able to get into a restaurant which might otherwise be difficult to book. Once the team identified these issues, they found a way to address all four, and went above and beyond by creating a sleek and easy to use UI.
All of our teams faced challenges, but Scramble rose to the occasion and overcame them. Plus, they (or their UI, at least) looked stunning while doing it.
The Big Takeaways
Team members overall reported having excellent experience during the 2021 Fueled Hackathon. Generating a new product in such a short amount of time gave participants a better understanding of the other roles in the development process, which we believe will help them be better collaborators in the future. One participant says:
“Since the Hackathon I've tried to include the team much more in decisions and seek their input as it makes for a better product. Also, this Hackathon we tried to aim for a complete product at the end of each day so we could play with it for a week. I've tried to be more strict about making this happen at the end of sprints in our projects for the same reason.”
Participants also reported enjoying the team spirit that grew during the Hackathon.
“[the] Hackathon made us think quickly on our feet. It was also a great collaborative experience with everyone pitching in their ideas to build something good. I absolutely loved every moment of it and am really excited to participate in any future Hackathons.”
Most participants said they appreciated learning and implementing new tech, like Flutter. While some expressed concern about the strenuous work environment, most reported that it was helpful to break out of one’s comfort zone by having limited time, and that this liberated participants to make quick-fire decisions without being bogged down by trying to attain perfection. And who knows, maybe one day a great idea could come out of Hackathon that could be grown into a fully fledged product. Thanks to all the teams for Dreaming big, keeping us Safe, and learning a whole lot of new technology in the alternate reality of Hackathon.