Students demonstrate their passion for coding in “hackathon”

Oct 12, 2012 · Science · By Krystin Li, Myles Hudson

Susan Qu
UW students have definitely showed their enthusiasm and persistency in programming in the 48-hour competition.

For 48 sleepless, caffeine fuelled hours, students from all across Canada, including those from UW and Laurier, participated in the third annual Great Canadian Appathon (GCA), the so-called “hackathon” for post-secondary students.

“There’s nothing that gets creative juices flowing like a tight schedule, lots of Red Bull, and no sleep,” said Lydia Schaele, public relations specialist at XMG Studio.

The GCA, a mobile game creation event founded by XMG studio, organized students into programming “hubs” where friends and programming teams could write, test, and create their own mobile games. All games were submitted for judgement on Sept. 30, and the winners will be announced on Nov. 8, with first place winners set to receive $25,000.

According to Schaele, the idea for the GCA came to them after they launched Cows versus Aliens — the product of a 48-hour internal hackathon — and it almost immediately skyrocketed up the app store charts.

Cows versus Aliens went on to win the title of 2011’s Most Innovative Game on Android. Today, there are over a million downloads on the Android platform and well over a million on the iOS platform. This is a manifestation of how well a sleep-deprived weekend spent crunched over a computer can pay off.

Over 500 Canadian students participated in the “coding marathon” across the country; the event is decentralized, with hubs located on different collaborative campuses. University of Waterloo is just one of the few. On Sept. 28, students arrived at the Davis Centre fishbowl to prepare for the competition.

“The GCA offers students the unique opportunity to have a mobile game creation credited to their name with the prospects to nicely compliment a resume of accomplishments,” said Schaele. “Even more important is the intense learning students receive in how to build a mobile application. Many students I spoke to from previous GCA events consistently say they learned more from this weekend of activity than any other part of their academic experience.”

For most UW students, GCA is probably just one of the many overnight programming contests they have experienced. The theme of the contest was not announced until 12:00 p.m. on Sept. 28, and the actual contest started at 5 p.m. Students were expected to start the project without any prior coding, although frameworks and other engines can be used.

According to Schaele, XMG also assembles a dream list of tools and resources for students each year that would allow any game development newbie to hack together their creation in a short but intense time period. Students take advantage of access to programming tips, art resources, sound, and even entire modules of code.

The competition was fierce. Currently the XMG team is playing their fingers bloody testing more than 100 submitted games. On Oct. 19 the top 25 teams will be announced.  

“We are incredibly proud of what the GCA has become since we first hosted the competition in 2011,” stated Schaele. “GCA1 and GCA2 both went down in developer history as the largest ‘hackathons’ ever to be held in Canada, and the GCA3  —  with its more than 500 participants  —  did nothing less.”

The XMG team decided to bump up the total amount of cash and prizes for GCA3 winners from the original $30,000 to more than $45,000, to celebrate the great Canadian coding culture. For UW participants, more money just means more to hope for as the annoucement date approaches.



With files from UW Campus Bulletin

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