“FeedTheHack” Builds Super Cool Apps

feed-the-hack-tc@jeffdonthemic – Jeff Douglas

My buddy Tim Hicks and I helped out over the weekend with the "FeedtheHack" hackathon in Indianapolis sponsored by Appirio. The theme of the hackathon was to build mobile apps for the local food truck industry. Essentially an app to be able to find food to eat or make it easier for customers to eat your food. A fun concept and a lot of really cool apps were produced over the 10 hours of the event by 12 teams.

Participants randomly selected an API that that they were required to use in their app (AWS, Twitter, Google, Yelp, Facebook or "Any of the Above") but could take their pick of any publicly available API(s) as well. Most of the apps implemented Twitter is some fashion. Either for a truck owner to tweet out their location, offer specials or incentivize people to find and visit their truck or by allowing consumers to tap into trucks' Twitter feeds and find where they were at and what was on the menu that day. Most of the apps were JavaScript and HTML5 but a few were hybrid apps with frameworks like Ionic and a couple were native apps using a BaaS to get things up and running quickly.

Foxio produced an app for both segments and implemented a calendar for both truck owners and an easy way for hungry customers to find trucks by the day of the week. A one-man team punted when he had some issues with Yelp and instead created a Dogecoin -> Bitcoin to -> USD converter so that trucks could easily accept cryptocurrency. Super cool and super geeky!

The third place winners, Andy McConnell and Corinna Cohn, developed a mobile app were customers could spin a slot machine and land on coupons for certain vendors and which were redeemable with their mobile devices. With only a certain number of spins a day there was a gamification aspect to determine whether to keep a coupon or try for a more valuable one.

The second place winners, SJ and Manpreet Singh, produced a native iOS app that allowed consumers to bookmark favorite trucks, get their location and directions and manage different trucks and tweets. Really nice work as they initially ran into some API issues.

The overall winner was the one man team of Michael Fellows who told me at the beginning of the hackathon that "…I'm not here to have fun, I'm here to win.. " and win he did. When I kicked off the event that morning, I talked about how at hackathons the hardest part is the concept of your app. The concept makes or breaks an app. I gave the audience some ideas of what I thought would be cool features for a mobile app. Well, Michael took one of my ideas which blew the judges away. His native iOS app was super slick and the app looked and functioned beautifully. He implemented both sides of the spectrum by adding new trucks and also being able as a consumer to find trucks by location. What really set him apart was the idea that he implemented from my opening talk. All of the other apps manually inputed each truck and their current locations so that they could be "found" by consumers. Michael used my idea of getting the long/lat from the truck owners' tweets to determine where they were currently located. A much more scalable solution!

Overall I think the event turned out great. We developed a lot of cool apps, had a great time and learned some new technologies and APIs during the day. We all hung around after the awards for pizza and beer and everyone chatted and seemed to get along great. I met one guy at the after party and he told me that he was a .NET developer by trade and this was his first native iOS app!

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