June 9 is a special day, because after more than 2 years I made myself go to a hackathon in AT&T Foundry, Palo Alto. The previous one was Google wave in 2009. June 8, Friday was the opening day of the “AT&T hackathon – Education” for networking and pitching the ideas. I myself did not have any idea but was open to teaming up with anyone who had a good one.
The pitching sessions opened with the keynote from AT&T developer evangelist Alex Donn. He mentioned about a recent report that one in four students drop out of high school. This hackathon produced by AT&T was supporting the cause and encouraged developers to bring out something good for the kids to motivate them to continue school and graduate. Alex Skidanov & Maria Skidanova from MemSql pitched a great idea of building Math and logic puzzles for kids. That way kids learn the subject and compete with each other over a game. I was very impressed with the idea. I went up and spoke to them after the session. Harshit Chitalia, a friend mine also agreed that it was a great idea. We quickly formed a team and decided to build the puzzle game for the hackathon the next day.
Coke, Gatorade and Red-bulls flowed with sandwiches and nachos. People asked us about our game. Larry McDonough from Blackberry promised us play books if we could make it work on BB playbook. We managed to push the puzzles code to Github by 4pm. Then we hit a roadblock, we needed a server to push responses to two clients who participate in this two player game. Alex hacked a quick PHP / MySql server on Amazon WebServices within 30 min. The code was integrated, minor glitches were fixed and it was all set for the submission – “ENGAGE!” , as Alex claims when everything starts working, our app ATTHACKGAME was ready for the demo at 7pm.
After several apps, they called us on to demo. Harshit and Alex did the talk, while Maria and I demoed the game on the big screen live on iPad and Blackberry playbook. That was the best part of our game, it worked on several devices thanks to the compatibility of HTML5 and it was live. It rocked on Blackberry playbook and iPad. The audience responded with an applause, but we felt we could have done better. After nearly 2 hours of wait at 11 pm,we were announced winners in the AWS challenge category. The other winners are here.