Friday, September 26, 2014

MakerSquare Day 22: Hackathon Day One: A Well-Laid Plan and the Joy of Blowing Things Up (5/4)

I'm right now 16+ hours into my first hackathon and stopping right now to tell you all about it would be a bit like stopping a movie halfway through and saying, "Well, how do you like it?"

The answer usually is "I don't know, but I think I like it. Let's see how it ends."

For those who don't know (hi, mom!), a hackathon is something like a mock production: in 36 hours (more-or-less), we're supposed to go from

  • idea to 
  • design to 
  • implementation to 
  • screaming into pillows to 
  • presenting the product
Usually, hackathons are done in teams, which gives people a nice taste of both taking an idea to a finished(ish) product and working together.

And I'm very thankful for my team. I've got permission to talk about our project before our unveiling Friday afternoon, so: we had four people helping to build our way-finder web app and each person had a pretty clear role, from our front-end UI/web designer, to our Google Maps API expert, to our floating troubleshooter, to our, well, me, who spent today working on the back-end algorithm for finding the best route from place to place.

Which brings me to the somewhat embarrassing part of the hackathon: my algorithm doesn't work. Now, this is both annoying (I like to finish things, I don't like being told I can't do something)*; and not all that big a deal, since Google Maps provides an algorithm for doing what we want it to do.

On the bright side (which I can find--thanks to some useful API), I did get my hands pretty dirty with some deep algorithm reading and a nice tour of some of Ruby that I hadn't played with before. Oh, hello (1.0/0.0) = Infinity!

*You now know the secret to getting me to do something: tell me I can't. Use that secret wisely.

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