HackTech Highlights

In my last post, I talked a little bit about my travels in Venice and Santa Monica. Today, I’ll be talking about my experiences at HackTech, the hackathon put on by the students of Caltech.

Let the Hacking Begin

Around 7 on Friday night, 1/24/14 we arrived at the venue we’d be hacking in: a convention center in the middle of Santa Monica Place. I couldn’t have asked for a better location.

Our (pretty awesome) team, consisting of Britt, CraigKunal, and me, grabbed a table with other UMD hackers and started setting up our development environment. I updated to a fresh version of Ubuntu and installed Sublime text. With some help from Craig and Kunal, and some command line magic, I was ready to start hacking.

Our idea, which didn’t have a name at this point, was to build a web application using eBay’s API which could find the average price of items. The user would enter a search term, select the category, and our application would find the average price for said item. This could be used to allow a buyer to find out how much he should be paying for his item, or for a seller to figure out how much to sell the item for. We didn’t want to stop there though, we decided to build in another feature which would search for items that were under-priced and allow buyers to find great deals on eBay.

Kunal and myself would familiarize ourselves with the eBay API and build the nit and grit of the back-end, while Craig and Britt would work on the gorgeous front-end. We chose Python/Django for our back-end and were excited to start. But first, I needed to familiarize myself with Python/Django.

After some quick tutorials in Python I was ready to begin. Having never used Python before, I was glad I had Craig and Kunal around to offer advice. One of the things I love about hackathons is how much learning can take place in such a short period of time. I went from knowing nothing about Python to coding the piece of our backend used to find underpriced items. It was a great learning experience, about both Python and eBay’s API (which was very easy to use, thanks eBay!).

While Kunal and myself worked on the backend, Craig and Britt were busy making an amazing front-end. Craig’s skills in both back-end development and front-end development proved crucial in making our application a success.

On Saturday, a name was decided upon for our hack: Dat Price. Special thank you to Namecheap.com for the free domain name.

Speaking of successes, we presented our application to the judges on Sunday and won eBay’s prize! It was an exciting moment, and I’m honored we were selected to win. Thanks eBay!

Alexis Ohanian and me

Me and a really chill dude

Other notable events

Alexis Ohanian showed up

I got to meet him! He could only stay for a little while, but he was really excited about the hacks going on and took the time to take pictures with everyone (or at least as many people as he could) before his manager told him he had to get going.

Free In-N-Out Burger was given out

It was delicious.

A lot of great tech companies and start-ups were there

Some of my favorites included Pebble, Whisper, Firebase, Fitbit, Namecheap, Dropbox, Mitek, Lob, and eBay, Inc.

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank all the organizers of Hacktech for putting on a great hackathon, and the sponsors for providing the funding to make it happen.

I’d also like to give a shout out to my team. I enjoyed hacking with all of you and would gladly do so again.

 

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