She did it again… winning the Windows 8 hackathon

Several weeks ago we went to a Windows 8 hackathon with my 10 year old daughter. We had no plan to compete. We just wanted to learn and be part of this fun event. The event started at 9AM on a quiet August Saturday. Most of our friends were at the beach. We were in the Microsoft office in Irvine and the room was almost full.
I will be honest with you, my daughter Ina was bored. She told me her baby brother is having more fun in the park. It still hurts repeating this unreasonable complain. I’m a hackathon fan, a religiously faithful enthusiast and I cannot imagine anything more fun on a Saturday. But I understand it- she didn’t have a project in mind, she was surrounded by adults and everybody was busy writing code.

Here comes the game changer. Quietly Matt Harrington, a Microsoft evangelist from San Francisco, comes to the podium for a small presentation before lunch. He actually mentions the only 10 year old in the room and he wants to show us something cool. Scirra is a tool. It’s software from the UK… that writes Java Script for you. You can make a game without messing with Java Script code! You create objects and give them properties, you add events and behaviors. Simple and easy. Matt announces you can make your own game with this tool in 2h.

That’s all Ina needed.

She did it. Hard work till 8PM and there it was- the Cyclopes game for Windows 8. You control a guy on the screen by moving the arrow keys and you can shoot with the space key. Cyclopes come from all directions and if they touch you, you lose. If you shoot at one of them 3 times you kill it. The point counter works. The game was functional and fun but she was still not convinced she has enough to present and compete. Microsoft was giving a free Xbox game to every participant and that helped. She just wanted the game. It didn’t cross her (or my) mind she may win the big prize. I asked Daniel Egan, the famous Microsoft evangelist from LA, to talk to Ina and give her some courage. He did – he got to Ina faster and easier than I could’ve done in hours. (I wish I can call him for help this week as Ina is running for school president and has to make a speech.)

Ina gets on the stage and first thanks Matt Harrington “Matt’s presentation really inspired me today”.
Everybody in the room voted- picking 5 best apps. Ina made it to the top- a Samsung Windows 8 slate, a $500 gift card and an inspirational memory to keep in her young heart.

The story speaks for itself. I was speechless, proud and happy. Michael Palermo, a Microsoft evangelist from Arizona, tweeted the next day:
@nia_angelina Thank you Nia! Congrats to that phenom daughter of yours for winning the slate and $500 at the hackathon! #win8appdev

Oh well, I’m full of so much appreciation for the precious Microsoft’s evangelists and the hackathon community! You should’ve been there. There are more to come- be there and get inspired!

Windows Phone Hackathons Are Better Than a Party

My life changed for the better in 2011 at TechEd North America (Atlanta GA). I was walking on the expo floor and I met The Sociable Geek Daniel Egan at the Windows Phone booth. I got a beautiful Samsung Focus phone in my hands and I was mesmerized. I had watched some webcasts earlier and I wanted to get into the mobile development. I wanted one of those puppies as well. When you have a goal or a dream, the Universe sends you the way to get there. Daniel told me about the Hackathon he was organizing that evening and that I could win one of those phones. I was there… I ditched a party to go to the hackathon.

I have never done a better decision in my life… it was much better than the great party I’ve missed.

It was exciting. It ended at midnight but I had the most beautiful phone in my hands. I had an inspiration. I made new friends and I learned about opportunities. There are hackathons not only once a year at TechEd and in Atlanta but in LA and many other locations.
Windows Phone Hackathon
At the end of March 2012 I took my 10 year old daughter and 14 year old nephew at a Windows Phone Hackathon in Los Angeles. It felt natural. I saw the same excitement in their eyes as I’ve felt. They were hooked… They found a person to inspire them too. Bret Stateham is a Microsoft evangelist and he quietly guided them.

Several weeks ago we went to a Nokia hackathon in San Diego. There was a set back- the kids were rejected at first by email, they were too young. There was a student contest but you had to be 18 or older to participate! My 14 year old nephew stayed home. My 10 year old daughter is not the type to get discouraged by a rejection. She reassured me I don’t care if I can compete, I’m coming to learn. So she came and we were nicely surprised. Nokia’s people had a gift for her. Everybody – participants and organizers- made her feel welcome and loved. Daniel Egan spent time helping her. It was a blast. Better than a party, she agrees…
(Ina was impressed: Mommy, I want to start work… Look at Nokia’s cafeteria… You all have much better place to eat lunch than us at school.)
Nokia's Hackathon
The other day we went to the Uplinq Hackathon. Ina was rejected again from competing but still she was allowed to come. There were some setbacks… I got a badge, she didn’t. Everybody got a backpack with a t-shirt, she didn’t… Bret Stateham saved the day at that moment- he gave Ina his own bag and t-shirt. It was a kind sweet gesture that will always be remembered.
There were 300 windows phones given- to everybody that was at the Hackathon but not Ina. Because she is too young…

Ina got a sharpie and wrote her name on my badge. The next morning she looked sad when I was getting ready to go to the Uplinq conference. She was registered and her picture was on the Uplinq catalog but she was not allowed to attend the sessions. She just wanted the chance to learn… The keynote session was beautiful- I couldn’t stop thinking how inspiring it would’ve been to watch it together with Ina.
As I said, she is not easy to discourage thankfully. I can not help but think that one day Qualcomm (the organizer of Uplinq) will want people just like her working for them. I somehow think Ina would love to work for Microsoft- if you encourage the next generation, you will get back a return on your investment.

There is nothing better than a Windows Phone Hackathon, may be Windows 8 Hackathon but that’s in our future :)