By Jake Schlinkmann
How would you like to get a pizza at the push of just one button? Now imagine there’s an app for that and you’re a college student? Exactly, I thought so.
That app, in fact, is currently in development. It was one of my favorite entries at an IBM Bluemix hackathon held this month at my school, Florida Polytechnic University, and it won 2nd place.
The hackathon was hosted jointly by IBM and Flagship Solutions Group while being led by Tom Hull, Vice President and CIO of Florida Poly. My team was part of approximately 80 students forming 20 teams and individual entries confined to Aula Magna lecture hall for 24 manic hours alongside IBM Bluemix mentors.
I think I speak for the rest of the student developers, hackers and programmers at the event, when I say that this experience was one of the best opportunities to apply the skills we’ve learned this year in the programming classes at Florida Poly in a tangible and real-world way. The hands-on experience in using IBM’s platform-as-a-service Bluemix to rapidly develop our ideas motivated all of us to transform our passions and creativity into reality.
Our team included my friends Jordan Tadelman and Zachary Weingarten, created an app called Travelmate, which is, simply speaking, Uber for traveling. Travelmate matches you based on interests to someone in a country you are traveling to, or conversely you with someone who is coming to your country. Imagine going to Paris and instead of having to meet a local who can show you around, the app will introduce you to someone eager and willing to show you around. It will truly jumpstart your adventure when you arrive.
Bluemix allowed us to approach our idea in much simpler ways than to write and rewrite code, test and retest without much movement. We simply created a Flask server and worked from there, modifying it to look pretty and deliver the fundamental content to present our project. And with over 100 services available in the Bluemix catalog, we were inspired to evolve our app in the future. For instance, we plan on integrating IBM Watson to our app so it can use cognitive analytics to personality-match users. We also want to experiment with NoDB since eventually we will need a way of storing user data.
As a developer, Bluemix allows me to work on code anywhere, without getting bogged down with bulky IDE. I am planning to use it for all of my web-based Python and Rasberry Pi projects moving forward. My favorite feature is the ability to push code and have it instantly built and ran, so I can rapidly develop apps live.
While my team won first place and the prizes associated with that, I believe that the experience itself was worth more in the long term. By creating a pulpit and opportunity for developers to collaborate together, and learn from each other, the hackathon taught us lessons that go beyond coding and app development.
This was most evident in the middle of the night, as by 3:00AM there were still over 30 people working away on their projects, with most of us staying up almost the entire night, sleeping upstairs in the Innovation, Science, and Technology building so we could work on our projects first thing in the morning.
The organized chaos of a hackthon makes it clear that without cloud computing developers, young and old, we wouldn’t be able to simultaneously collaborate on projects and innovation would slow to a crawl. Using the cloud and an open development platform like Bluemix we could all work together in real time, whether on the same team or not.
Collaboration is crucial, whether across systems or between and within teams. The hackathon environment is just a physical manifestation of cloud computing… a lot of different ideas and separate skill sets, all having a common place to come together to achieve the same goal of innovation.