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Inside Our 'Fun Week Hackathon'

We are always looking for ways to continue "creating a culture for team innovation and creativity" so this past week our six engineers dedicated to Research & Development took five days to participate in our Fun Week Hackathon. It's the kind of fun that keeps our engineers locked in a room for five days straight and leads to enough consumption of Mountain Dew to make towers out of the empty cans.

For this hack, our team split and went after two different projects of interest. First, a content authoring tool, aka "Bumblebee", and second, a socket server with WebRTC for video, aka "Quincy". Here's a bit more about each and how the weeks worth of hard work went for the team! WARNING: "Techy" language ahead.

Content Authoring Tool - aka "Bumblebee"

The team collaborated to brainstorm, design and prototype an interactive drag and drop content authoring tool to assist organizations with building interactive eLearning content. With the help of Mountain Dew (hence the tower) and a playlist full of Eminem, DMX and Jay Z; the team was off in the depths of NodeJS and AngularJS.

Sharing many laughs along the way; our interns worked alongside our seasoned engineers to gain experience with the inner workings of a full-stack application built in AngularJS and NodeJS.

Our engineer Sean Perkins pointed out that for the Bumblebee team the week was great for "learning the meaning of being reactive and creative. We went through several iterations of product design and functionality to come up with a workable prototype that delivered a positive experience to the user."

Socket Server with WebRTC for Video - aka "Quincy"

We have always wondered what it would take to write a strong socket server that can handle a bunch of communication across many platforms as well as broadcast a video feed. We have been using other services to achieve this type of functionality, but really didn't think it would be that hard to implement something ourselves.

This past week the team worked hard to build out as much of the software as possible and they made a sizable dent; after all, Skype wasn't made in a day. To create the communication tool with video chat, instant messenger, and the capability to voluntarily record your video to share it with someone, we used Websockets and WebRTC. Our ultimate goal is to build out and use this technology so that we have full control of our apps at Maestro.

Bumblebee and Quincy both hit significant milestones during the Fun Week Hackathon. The hackathon really did accomplish what it set out to - it was a great way to spark innovative thinking and our team is excited to continue working on them in the future. This quote sums up why this type of exercise is so important for our team, especially as we continue to intentionally work innovation and creativity into the projects we work on.

"Innovation involves two stages—the generation of new ideas and the implementation of the ideas" (1).

This pretty much defines a hackathon. First, you brainstorm (generate) new ideas, come up with one or two good ones, then implement the ideas. For our team, it's a welcomed challenge. This might be our first Fun Week Hackathon of the year, but it will not be the last. Stay tuned for more hackathons!

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