Last Saturday, a few of my classmates and I decided to attend the Clarifai Artificial Intellegence Hackathon. Due to a bit of week-4 exhaustion, I am just now writing about it, and it’s going to be a pretty short post. One of my teammates from the hackathon wrote a really great article about it on her blog, and I recommend checking that out as well!
A hackathon is an event where developers (or sometimes non-developers) come together and create a project in a fixed amount of time, usually with presentations and prizes at the end. This hackathon was 12 hours, and the prizes were lighthearted (most secretly evil, most likely to slow human progress). My team took home the latter prize for a project called miss-direction, a chrome extension that you can sneakily download on your friend’s computer, and every time they try to get directions on google maps, they will instead get directions somewhere a few blocks away. I was lucky to have a very strong team, one of my classmates and one Grace Hopper alumna, who kept me grounded around hour 6 of straight coding when I started to hit a wall.
Some cool things about the hackathon:
There was almost too much free food
We got close to doing something that I would actually call hacking – manipulating the Google Maps API to do something it wasn’t intended to do. Turns out google is really good at preventing you from messing with its stuff. But we beat it!
We were in the General Assembly (another bootcamp) offices, which are beautiful. They use ipads for things that we use post-it notes for at Grace Hopper. Plus, they have a giant chalk drawing of Bill Nye.
The guy sitting next to us was using virtual reality goggles for his project and we got to try them on.
Most of the week was dedicated to understanding promises, a structure that allows you to write readable code for handling asynchronous operations. Without promises, it’s very easy to get lost in a sea of abandoned brackets and semicolons whenever you’re trying to get the computer to do multiple things that take time, like connect to a server or database, and you need to wait for those things to happen before you can do something else. Promises make it way cleaner and easier to read (and apparently faster to process?) but are also a bit tricky to wrap your head around at first, so it’s good we had a full week of introduction to it.
We also did a couple of projects using sequelize, which is a library that is built on promises and allows you to query a database without using SQL (just when I was on a roll)
Lastly, we had a test on friday to see how we were doing on sequelize and express. I actually enjoyed it, spending two hours silently coding on my own was, in a way, a good change of pace from pair programming, and it was good to be able to see what I could do without help.
My favorite parts
On Friday afternoon, we had a tessel hackathon with the Fullstack Academy students. I’m proud to say that my group took home the ‘most creative’ prize for building a machine that could sense an awkward silence and play cricket noises, wave a ‘well this is awkward’ flag, and text you a conversation starter. I’m especially proud of this considering that the other two winning teams were all men, and my team was all women.
Code and the city
I figured out the metro card thing. You have to keep it in your wallet and not let it rattle around in your bag with your loose change. Still though, MTA, if you’re reading this, you need to get over this whole magnetic strip thing, it’s 2016.
I’m about to go above 14th street for the first time since living here. Wish me luck as I enter the grid.
My overall thoughts/opinions
This was a pretty fun week! I learned a lot and I also had some really good partners that made it go by quickly. It kind of felt like one long day with naps in the middle.