Alex Luong

First Non-MLH Hackathon

June 28, 2018 | Me | Hackathon

Goodie Nation Hack Cancer + STDs

It’s been a while since I last participated in a hackathon. Being in Alabama, where the tech community is not the most active, I did not find much events around here. Last week, I finally went to a hackathon in Atlanta, GA. It was a very different experience but definitely meaningful and memorable.

GoodieNation

GoodieNation Hack Cancer + STDs is an initiative that helps accelerate startups and campaigns in Atlanta. The hackathon is one of the last event. We, developers, joined different teams and helped make the founders’ vision a reality. It was different than MLH Hackathons where we get to choose the idea and execute on those. But on the other side, it took care of the hardest part of doing a hackathon for me: deciding on what to build. I luckily joined an awesame team with a modern tech stack, and overall had a very great experience.

My team: Healium

As I was walking around the conference filled with people, trying to decide which team to join, Healium caught my eye with the tech stack that was very familiar to me. After talking to Sarah and Jonathon, the founders, about the app, I could see the value it was offering and joined the team as a front end developer.

Healium is an app that helps children with chronic illnesses be more responsible for taking their medication throuch challenges. The idea is that children can create a challenge of taking their medication at a specific time of the day and be alerted by Healium instead of being negged by parents.

If successfully follow their medication for a period of time, they can earn rewards from their support systems (i.e their family and friends).

On the other hand, if they failed to let Healium know that they took their medicines, their supporter will be alerted through text messages.

Tech Stack

I mentioned about a familiar tech stack earlier. As my team’s idea is a mobile app, we decided to create it with React Native, Firebase, Twilio, and Cloud Functions. This was perfect timing for me as I literally started a React Native project at work the very next day after the hackathon ended. Prior to the hackathon, as a React developer who played with React Native a couple times, I felt confident I could tackle the app and make a lot of progress as well as learning a lot of things along the way.

Here are a few things I’ve learnt this weekend:

  • Setting up a React Native project is challenging, especially to someone who’s not a mobile app developer like me. I spent a lot of time on Xcode trying to do simple tasks like install Cocoapods (and to be honest, I don’t really know what those are; I just think of them as npm modules for iOS).

  • I learnt how to do Phone Authentication with React Native. It was very interesting, but now I can confidently add phone authentication to my lists of authentication strategies that I implemented. The hardest part was setting up React Native with react-native-firebase. I will hopefully start my Youtube channel with 2 videos on this topic. Until then, stay tuned!!

  • Styling React Native has grown on me. At first, doing inline-style with StyleSheet was strange, and it still is. But now when I moved back to the web with normal CSS, I found myself typing justifyContent sometimes. I would love to have more opportunities to work and learn more on React Native.

  • And lastly, at the very last minutes (like 10 minutes before our demo), I found out that setting up Redux with React Navigation was not as simple as I had thought. It definitely caught me by surprise, but now equipped with this knowledge, I can know to not underestimate it in the future (and not to copy and paste the Redux setup of a React project).

  • Oh, and I almost forgot to mention Georgia Tech dorm. As our venue was not available through the night, I had to find some place to stay. Very fortunate for me, I met Andres who’s staying in GATech’s dorm this summer (although he went to FIU; he interned at Home Depot). He generously offered me a place to stay as well as took me out to his favorite restaurants in town. It was great for me to know more about Georgia Tech and experience life in Atlanta, even though it was just one weekend.

There are also a few things I wished I did:

  • We never got a chance to set up Push Notification. It was on the horizon since day 1, but we did not have time to implement it. It was quite a bummer, since our team already had an Apple Developer Account (so I don’t have to create one myself).

  • Socialized and made more friends. Everybody there was amazing, and I had great conversations with my team (and Bob from Ceed; he did React, so we talked). I wished I reached out and talked to more people. Maybe some other time, at some other hackathon.

Overall

I had such a great time that past weekend. It satisfied my bug of doing a hackathon and gave me a legitimate reason to pull all nighters. I made friends and connections. I helped build an amazing app, and I hope it will bring lots and lots of value to people. And we also won Best Demo App of the event. There’s that too. Overall, it was an amazing experience, and I look forward to this event next year.