Hack24

Usually over the Mayday bank holiday weekend Steve and I put our feet up, maybe do a bit of gardening. But this year we decided to do things a bit differently and enter MultiPie into Tech Nottingham’s Hack24 event; a 24 hour coding challenge.

I was initially a little sceptical about taking part; I like a good nights sleep and I don’t usually enjoy competitions. But when we started looking at the challenges that were on offer and the freedom we could have building any app we like, I began to get excited. There were six challenges in total and we decided to go for one set by local sponsor MidlandHR. They were looking for an innovative way to improve relationships between managers and employees. The brief was to come up with a creative way of comparing managers’ performance and visualising data collected from employees.

When the air horn sounded to start our challenge, “Team Pie” was raring to go. We launched immediately into confusion with each of us trying to dive into multiple areas at once, plus the inevitable technical malfunctions. We quickly discovered that trying to work together on one project at the same time poses logistical challenges. We also realised that it might not be a good idea to launch into learning something new like Android’s Material design, animations and card layouts when on a tight deadline. Thankfully, although there were some frustrations, and we pretty much lost the first 8 hours in a blur of error messages and crashing code, we were not disheartened. I’m very reassured that we all clearly love what we do!

The next 16 hours were far more productive and a little sleep was even had, though kudos to our Adam who stayed up for the whole 24hours! Come the final call for keyboards down we had produced two working apps (complete with snazzy loading animations) and a prototype website.

Hack24 slide

Our Android phone app allowed hypothetical employees to scan QR codes located in their staff rooms. They could then fill out a short questionnaire about their management. What inspired us with this challenge though was the data representation element. For this we designed an Android tablet app to be used by managers and business owners.

Data collected through the questionnaire could be displayed in easy to read graphs that drilled down into each question asked to the employees. Business owners could compare their stats over time and pick out specific successes and problem areas in their management structures.

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Lastly we also designed a prototype for a website that would allow prospective employees to view statistics for companies.

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The hack event gave me an opportunity to put some prototyping software through its paces. I was really pleased to be able to get the prototype for the site out to support the apps.

Overall we had a great weekend; we really enjoyed designing and building a project from scratch with few restrictions. There were also a lot of lessons we could take away. Each of us definitely learnt something new. The event also worked well as a team building exercise. We survived 24hour in each other’s company combined with sleep deprivation and no major arguments were had. I’d definitely recommend a hack event, even if you are a fan of early nights and long lie-ins!

Multipie_at_hac24

We’d also like to say a big thank you to Emma and Andrew Seward and the rest of the team for the organising the event. It really was a top quality weekend!