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Maestronauts Code Michigan

A big congrats to four of our very own Maestronauts: Software Engineer Josh Kovach, Art Director Amy O’Donnell, and interns Addison Webb & Kendrick Cline as well as our friend, Dillon Daudert. This past weekend, they competed in Code Michigan, a 3-day hackathon to reinvent Michigan’s Government. They coded and designed their way to winning their challenge and placing 2nd in the region!

Competing teams picked from the challenges provided (this year there were 17 total) and took the weekend to work (extremely) hard to create a tech-driven solution; “We literally did not sleep.” It’s an intense weekend, but also a blast.

Code Michigan is the result of a small domino effect of inspiration starting with Tim O’Reilly who is a huge supporter of the free software and open source movements. O’Reilly believes “government should provide the plumbing to let anyone interface with public data and services.” So, how did our Maestronauts use this transparency to interact with and improve #PureMichigan?

Our Maestronauts created a mobile application for both Android and iOS to solve the Tourism and Recreation challenge:

“Develop one easy to use application where trail amenities, such as camping, restaurants, shelters and nearby lake information such as mapping data can be accessed by the public.”

Essentially, “the state of Michigan has data for tons of stuff but it’s all on these ugly spreadsheets. So our goal was to turn that ugly spreadsheet into something interesting for the general public,” said Josh. By the end of the sleepless weekend, they created an app that is ready to be published to the App Store and Google Play.

The app is your one stop resource for all of the campgrounds, trails, state parks, lakes, streams, and visitor centers across Michigan. It’s an a la carte menu that displays information based on the criteria you select to help you navigate and plan your next adventure, including directions, contact information, camping information, fishing regulations, and much more.

Because of the nature of the event, participants are forced to squeeze a project, which would typically require several weeks, into just a couple of days. Although our Maestronauts are used to creating custom apps from scratch, the process they apply includes several iterations and a good amount of time for strategy, design, and development. But in Code Michigan, you are deep in the weeds with your teammates, designing, developing, and implementing all in a one-weekend time crunch.

How did our Maestronauts do it? They each applied their specific skills and talents, stayed focused, and had open communication throughout. Kendrick said, “We were always moving around, getting up and going over to each other’s computers to figure things out.” The team completed everything from the backend to API and GPS integration, user interface, application architecture, and icons with minimal blinking.

As Josh pointed out, most importantly, “we all got to know each other and learned a lot from each other.”

Congratulations to our winning Maestronauts and everyone else who competed in Code Michigan or helped make it possible.

Stay tuned; we will be sharing more about the app once it is available for you to download from app stores!

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