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My First Hackathon, SpeedNOLA

The first annual SpeedNOLA, hosted by CMG & Tech Talent South was held on Nov. 4th-5th at Manning’s in Downtown New Orleans. CMG & Tech Talent South had secured the 2nd floor meeting space for the weekend. Admission was free and open to the general public and included free food.

Eventbrite Header for the Event
Stairs from the 2nd floor to the main restaurant.

The event focused around two main challenges to create a website, app, etc. that either “enhanced the local New Orleans experience” or increased “public safety using AI & video photography analysis.”

Teams were given the option to compete at a novice or expert level. The novice prize was $1K cash and required a mockup with technical documentation. Expert was a $2.5K prize and required a “functional” model.

After discussing the challenges, my partner and I decided to pursue a native app that utilized AR to model the user’s vehicle in flood water so that the user would be able to make an informed decision on whether or not to drive their vehicle through it. While both of us came from software development backgrounds, neither of us felt strong enough to code a full solution, so we opted to compete at the novice level.

Event Schedule

The workshops were held in the same place that hacking was occurring, which made it easier to see the workshops and hack at the same time.

Wireframe Example & Defining the User

The App Development Workshop was hosted by Elizabeth Nicholas, who teaches “UX for Beginners” at Tech Talent South. She went over defining who your user is, writing user stories, and identifying their needs, goals, and pain points. She also made some recommendations for products we can use to create “wireframes” (mockups) of our products. One of these was the app, Marvel. And while Marvel had great presentation functionality, we ultimately used Adobe XD.

I had never previously worked with Adobe XD, but kept seeing it come up in my Facebook Ads. The program was incredibly lightweight, so much so that it ran perfectly on my ARM CPU Surface! The program even offered templates for both iOS and Android that you could build off of. The interaction options were also incredible.

Creating wireframes using templates in XD.

Anoush Najarian, Software Engineering Manager at Mathworks, headed up the next workshop focused on “Performance Engineering.”

Anoush explains R.A.I.L.

After the presentation was over, Anoush wanted to see who was paying attention, so we had a quick quiz to see what we learned about “Performance Engineering.”

I kinda won. :3

Up next was Amanda with CMG, she delivered the “Pitch Workshop” and went over what the judges would be looking for on Sunday from each team’s presentation.

Most of the teams split shortly after this workshop, I stayed a little later, but everyone had cleared the space by 8pm.

Sunday opened with breakfast and slightly smaller space to allow a location for the judges to deliberate after presentations.

Our team worked right up till the deadline and then submitted our work digitally. We ran into some issues getting the demo to work on a mobile device, but Adobe XD actually has a display feature that allows you to share a link of the interactions.

Title Card for our demo, “Test the Waters”

The business case for the this hack was not only from a safety perspective, but as a “good driver” discount option for insurance companies.

The info on the right came from news sources, and it’s scary.

I’ve been looking into building the app in real time and it seems like iOS 11’s ARKit functionality is an option since it uses Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) to map the surrounding environment. Which is exactly the functionality we’d need to map an AR car in flood water. (It’d also give me an excuse to learn Unity.)

I guess the “hacking” ends somewhere, and then the building starts to begin.