18 Dec 2014
WatIsFood - Hack the North 2014
Hack the north was the first hackathon I’ve ever been to. It was conveniently held on the University of Waterloo campus. I went into it without a team, but with the goal of having something finished by then end, maybe an app or a website. I got set up with a team when I showed up, but we just weren’t compatible and ended up going seperate ways. I walked around the building asking people if they needed an extra member until I found the team for me. Three other first years who hadn’t started yet!
After much debate we decided to make an android app, one that provides info about the food options available on the Waterloo campus. Unfortunately, only myself, with a highschool java course under my belt, and one other member, with similar skills, had any programming experience, so we were tasked with the work. The other two members spent their time thinking up ideas and learning to code. I started by showing the other member how Github worked, and he showed me how basic app design worked. We decided against just using the google maps api, and instead doing it from scratch. I went about doing the GUI design for the home screen, while the other member tried to figure out how to bring our idea to life.
After many hours of frustrated Googling, I began to understand how the gui worked, and together with some mediocre photoshop skills, came up with a half decent home page. Onto the main part of the program, we decided to display an image of a map of the campus, and put buttons on it related to all the different food options. We figured out that we could pull info about all the different places to eat from the Waterloo api, and that we did. We manually entered the xy coordinates, related them to the data, and suddenly (48 hours later) we had a working app. We used the api data to display the name, whether it’s open, a short bio, and the hours. Using what we had, we were able to create different options, one that showed only the open locations, and another that showed all locations.
We were very proud of our very basic app, going from almost 0 experience with android apps to having a working product. It wasn’t close to being the coolest thing to come out of the hackathon, but it was finished, and it was what we wanted to make. The hackathon was a great experience, I developed new skills, met some new people, ate tons of free food, and had a lot of fun! I plan on going to many more in the future.