NSS Alumni Hackathon - The Results Are In

Aug 23, 2017
Callan Morrison


This past weekend the 3rd floor at 500 Interstate Blvd S reached a new level of chaos: the NSS Alumni association hosted their very first Alumni/Student Hackathon. Shortly before 4pm Saturday, eager (and in many cases, anxious) developers started pouring in, armed with laptops and plenty of caffeine. They had 25.5 hours over the next 2 days to come up with a concept for an application, then design, plan and ultimately build it.

Each team was led by an NSS alum with at least one year of on-the-job experience or instructional experience; they were hand-selected for their awesomeness. The rest of the team was comprised of a mix of alumni and current students, but no 2 teammates came from the same cohort. So, each team ranged from developers that were deep in their careers to students that just learned how a for loop worked, oh, and none of them had worked together before. It could have been a recipe for disaster; it ended up being a smashing success.

The teams were tasked with one formidable challenge: build an application related to the theme Skill++. This was the prompt students were given:

So, what does Skill++ mean? As NSS alumni and current students, we all have a shared experience: learning how to be a developer. And no, we don't mean learning how to be Hackerman. We mean learning how to learn to the craft of development as a novice, and then continuously learning new technologies and various best practices throughout your career. As developers, we have a unique insight about the challenges of both of these tasks. During the Hackathon, groups will work to build projects, using a range of technologies, centered around enhancing the process of learning development. We'll give you just a few ideas to get your brain gears grindin': games to build specific skills (like CSS Diner, Flexbox Froggy, etc), applications to collect and practice interview questions, websites that gather and filter recommended resources, applications to match beginners with mentors. Ultimately, let’s ask ourselves what can be done to improve how we learn the craft of development for all? Let’s work together to build that.

The 12 participating groups spread themselves out around the building and immediately got to work Saturday. The first point of discussion for all of the groups? What would have helped me as I was learning how to be a developer. So they all had a list of problems and pain-points, then they just had to dream up solutions to them. Once they landed on an idea, the dry-erase markers came out and whiteboards filled up. It looked like window scene from A Beautiful Mind in here. The hackathon committee (or rather the building’s security system) kicked all the groups out at 7pm but that wasn’t the end of the night for some of them. They met at coffee shops (bars) and kept coding into the night. Sunday morning the building opened its doors at 7am and the lines of code started flowing once again. Starting around noon, there were sighs of relief that could translate to “we’ve reached MVP (minimally viable product).” By 5:30pm, 11 of the 12 groups were ready to present their applications.

NSS Alumni Hackathon


Applications Built:

  • Team 1 built "Not too Flashy": An even more amazing flash card game.
  • Team 2 built "Git Gumble": Bumble for github commits.
  • Team 3 built "Codemon": A game to teach CSS and more.
  • Team 4 built "GitGud": Learn the basics of git flow with a visual tutorial inspired by the CSS Diner (https://flukeout.github.io/). Users will complete a series of interactive challenges to test their knowledge of git commands.
  • Team 5 built "Read the Room": Developing More than Code.
  • Team 6 built "Total Eclipse of the Code": A playground for learning functions.
  • Team 7 built "ReZOOMe": Streamline the resume creation process.
  • Team 8 built "Code Stars": Community to create coding accountability.
  • Team 9 built "TIL": Community board for posting, voting, and commenting on “Today I Learned”s.
  • Team 10 built "NexuSS": NSS student/alumni purposeful connection web app.
  • Team 11 built "Code Flash": A flash card quiz game.
  • Team 12 built "GitFlash": A flashcard quiz for learning the basics of Git and Bash.

Languages Used

  • CoffeeScript
  • CSS
  • Elixir
  • HTML
  • Javascript
  • SASS
  • TypeScript

75,768+ Lines of Code Written.


After all the dust had settled from the app-building fury, the teams set up their projects in science fair style and got ready to present their apps. At 5:30 on Sunday, the doors to NSS swung open again; friends and family of participants, alumni who couldn’t attend the full hackathon, students of our 3-week Jumpstart class, and NSS-staff judges poured in. Not only did this crowd get to see the remarkable accomplishments of the hackathoners, they got to decide which application “won”.

Apps were judged on 3 different criteria:
  • Design and ease of use: Judges look at the apps as a whole - does it look good? Does it have a consistent feel from one page to another? Is it easy to use? Is using it intuitive?
  • Functionality: Judges look at the apps as a whole - does it work? Are there some cool features? Do the features make sense? Is the app useful?
  • Public Opinion: Each person (team leads, developers, judges, friends, family, babies) who is in the building between 5:30 and 6:30 got a single vote.
3rd Place Goes To: GitGud

Built by James Logan, Jufe Brown-Tsai, Dan Certa, Isabel Ramos, and Bobby Shunk. 
NSS Alumni Hackathon 3rd Place 
Check out their app here.

2rd Place Goes To: Total Eclipse of the Code

Built by Greg Korte, Chris Jarvis, Angela Lee, Michael Lindstrom, Kelly Stoops, Heather Thacker, and Jevon Thomas NSS Alumni Hackathon 2nd Place 
Check out their app here.

1st Place Goes To: TIL

Built by Blaise Gratton, Hiatt Collins, Adam Oswalt, Preeti Pathak, and Geoff Webb 
NSS Alumni Hackathon 1st Place 
Check out their app here.

But let’s be real. There were more winners than just the teams that snagged some of those awesome duck trophies. There was a moment that I wish I caught on camera, but narrowly missed it. At the end of the night Sunday, the head of the hackathon committee asked the crowd “who learned something this weekend?” and all the hands in the room shot up. Every hackathoner learned something during the event, no matter if it was a new technology, a new technique, or a new soft skill.

The NSS Alumni Association is planning to host at least one hackathon next year and will be announcing their fall events soon. Alumni should watch their email for more information in the coming weeks.

Topics: Alumni, Student Stories