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St. Paul, MN 55101

Technology

How To Build Code And Community At The Same Time

Hack the Gap is another annual event in Minnesota – one that we participate in and look forward to each year. The mission of Hack the Gap is to provide an opportunity and create a place where women can come to “build, connect, inspire and be inspired by each other.”

HACK THE GAP 2016

This year 48 hackers gathered together, pitched exciting ideas for projects and then grouped into 9 teams around the most popular ideas, ready to test their talents and grow together.

Four of Creed’s own attended. As always, they were eager to share their skills, encouragement and inspiration, and to be inspired in turn.

We’ve asked them to share experiences from the event and hopefully stir up and motivate our readers to get involved, too.

What was your team’s project idea and why did you choose it?

My team developed an application that allowed the user to search for clinical pharmacists. I chose this project because the team needed a PHP developer, plus I was interested in it since my father is a retired pharmacist.

What technologies/platforms did you use in your project and why?

We created the application using WordPress. WordPress was a good choice for a time-constrained hack-a-thon. It allowed us to leverage the functionality of the framework so we could focus on the customization.

What was the highlight of the event for you and why?

The highlight of the event for me was to push myself in programming in a safe environment. Working with other women at an event that is more focused on building individual’s skills rather than winning awards, is a great place to see what you can do.

What was your team’s project idea and why did you choose it?

My team worked on building out a prototype app for tracking a complex job hunt. People who have diverse skills often manage quite complicated job searches. Multiple resumes; recruiter relationships; deadlines and requirements specific to every job; communication that spans phone, email, and letter… it can be a lot to track. The Job Hunt Manager app we worked on was conceived as a tool to help people organize all parts of their job hunt in one place.

I chose this project since I had thought up a similar solution a year ago while house hunting, so I resonated with the idea of building a new managing tool to meet a need not met elsewhere. The other developers that were interested in the project also seemed to have similar skills to my own, so I was hopeful that we would be able to build something out together and learn from each other – which was my main goal in participating in Hack the Gap!

What technologies/platforms did you use in your project and why?

We had three women on our team (including myself) who were familiar with the MEAN Stack (MongoDB, Express, AngularJS, Node.js), so we decided to build our app with the same technologies. We had some challenges since none of us had experience with the exact same project setup, but we did manage to get our project working! We also had a designer and a front-end developer working together to build out a Bootstrap theme to give our app some pizazz.

What was the highlight of the event for you and why?

Being in a building with so many brilliant women all problem-solving together, learning from each other, and socializing to boot was exhilarating! Every time I heard shouts of victory from a team of women as they worked through something that they had been working on for hours, it solidified for me the desire to keep coming back every year this event is held so that I can contribute to this community as long as possible.

What was your team’s project idea and why did you choose it?

Our team’s project idea: “CLICKED” a sub-group social network for those who identify as female to connect with others within the technology industry.

I chose this idea because I was interested in learning how to build a social network. In addition, if Clicked was a real network, I would join it and try to utilize it as much as possible.

What technologies/platforms did you use in your project and why?

Content Management System: WordPress

We chose this because the majority of our group had never worked with WordPress and we wanted to dive in to see what we could create.

Plugins:

  • Ultimate member – creates online communities and user profiles
  • UM Relational Fields – creates relationships between members and organizations.
  • Advanced Custom Fields PRO – creates custom fields for the members and organizations.
  • Frontend Edit Profile – allows editing a profile on the users page from the frontend.

What was the highlight of the event for you and why?

Working with my team to create a demo of a social network in less than 24 hours. At first, while planning it, we felt a bit overwhelmed, but as time went by and the more we worked together our ability to collaborate and our confidence were strengthened. In the end, we were able to pull it all together and we created something we were proud to show.

It was very empowering to see all the teams accomplish great things over the weekend. I am definitely looking forward to coming back to Hack the Gap next year!

What was your team’s project idea and why did you choose it?

My team was Hmong Trail. Our goal was to create a storytelling game about the Hmong Secret War along the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos in the 1960’s + 70’s based on Oregon Trail, primarily to teach empathy. One of the ladies presented the idea in the week leading up to the event and I found myself most connected to it above the rest. I also love Hmong fabrics and culture and jumped at the chance to do some illustration to bring the story to life. (hello pixel art!)

What technologies/platforms did you use in your project and why?

We came together with a variety of skills, from project management and design to SQL and Java. Originally our team was unsure about how to start actually developing the program – we wanted to make a mobile app for ease of accessibility and spent some time trying to figure out how to bring our skills together. We shared a room with another team, divided by a standing whiteboard, and one of their members poked her head around as we talked about tigers, bombs, opium, and Oregon Trail.

She jumped in and started explaining the basics of app development to us, and proposed we develop on Xamarin for its cross-platform capability. She volunteered to lead the charge and switched to our team. Once the devs were up and moving I dived into rediscovering my childhood in the form of pixel art. It took some trial and error to find the best method to create high-res pixel art. I landed on tried and true MS Paint, but isn’t available for Mac, so I sought out an alternative and found it in PikoPixel. Which turns about to be superior to Paint because layers.

What was the highlight of the event for you and why?

Besides winning a Fitbit for snagging second place? Working with all of the amazing ladies, building connections and being inspired by everyone’s spirit of enthusiasm. It’s amazing to see all the people in our community who care, who get out of their comfort zone and just participate.

I came away feeling empowered by the support and empathy, and I now have a strong group of friends from my team who are all about helping each other grow and continuing to build our project. Post-HTG update: we might be moving to the Unity engine. Updates will be posted here: hmongtrail.com

Hack-A-Thon Event Winners

We’re proud to say that we were in 3 out of the 4 winning teams, and if you count Jana jumping in to assist the winning team with some C++, we had a hand in the each of the winning ideas. While we didn’t attend with the competition in mind, it’s nice to be recognized and rewarded. Thanks Hack the Gap!