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Hack Reactor hosted the #neoHack14 hackathon by Girl Develop It SF over the weekend. Girl Develop It provides classes and resources for beginner to intermediate coders to help them tackle the most confusing and intimidating aspects of software development. Over a hundred people, roughly 95% women, participated in this free, newbie-friendly, collaborative event to build and support the coding community.
The first evening gave everyone a chance to get to know each other, and prep for lots of hacking the next day. After dinner and mingling, representatives from Macys.com, Adobe and Firebase presented their APIs. Participants formed teams based on their skill sets, then came up with 60-second pitches for the products they would build the next day.
“The idea is to get people comfortable with all the scary parts,” said Bianca Gandolfo, of Hack Reactor and Girl Develop It, and the lead organizer of the event.
The following morning, those products became reality. First, mentors guided teams through paper prototyping: the process of sketching out an app before you build it. Once teams were ready to build, they started hacking. Despite the fact that every team had at least two members that identified as coding beginners, all 19 teams finished the event having built a product.
“The amazing thing about this all is that they only had 6 hours to hack, and they are all newbie coders, and they all walked away having created something,” said Gandolfo. That included one team of three, which had a total of 12 hours of coding experience between them.
Macys.com, #neoHack14’s biggest sponsor, offered prizes to the top products and the best use of Macy’s API. The winner, QuickFit, received $1,000 in cash and another $500 to the charity of their choice. QuickFit is an app to encourage short workouts. The user inputs how much time she has and what she is wearing, and the app returns a short workout, appropriate for that timespan and outfit.
Second place ($500 in cash, $200 to charity) went to Shopping with Conscience, an app that uses Macys.com’s API along with another API that evaluates the social impact of our shopping choices to filter the shopping options on Macys.com to only include ones with a neutral or positive impact. Teams that didn't win cash prizes went home with educational materials to help them continue to develop as coders.
“All the mentors were really impressed with how it all came together in a short timeframe with people who had limited experience,” Gandolfo noted.
Girl Develop It has myriad online resources to help anyone learn coding. For those in the San Francisco area, there is a series of workshops, which serve to demystify coding and can help prepare students for the Hack Reactor interview.