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Archive for February, 2015

Organizing a Hackathon @ UC Berkeley: Day D …. (Part 3 of 3)

Friday, February 27th, 2015

The day before the starting of the Hackathon, we were making sure that the infrastructure was in place in the open space at CITRIS main floor, installing socket extensions, checking the items received, adjusting security access to premises for the organizing team and volunteers, checking T-Shirts sizes, avaialble drinks (Coke, Soda and Red Bull ), energy bars and cookies to keep participants energy up, buckets for ice, water deposit, etc…. we also opened one of InWatchZ boxes and played with it a little bit.

Everything was ready for Day D…..

We had 93 registrations…. but only some 30 participants showed up and officially checked in on February 20th from 18:30. Some started working until 22:30 , closing time for the first day.

All the volunteers were there, Luke organized the presence slot so that there were always a couple of volunteers present. InWatch USA staff arrived and officially opened the Hackathon. Pizza dinner was available as well as snacks and drinks for the participants from 19:00. The tradition was respected: “eating while hacking” …… 😉

Every team had to check-in at the volunteers desk to get a Smartwatch for hacking. It was important to keep track of them , not only for security reasons but also because some teams might have decide to hack the OS or install their own code and they would need to continue working on it the next day.

One of the teams did not manage to find the options in the API to change language from Chinese to English for some parts of the software and hesitated to come back the next day. They did not show up anymore…

The next day we started at 9:00; bagels and coffee were available with a good variety of flavoured spread. Good energy to start…. teams were checking in slowly , some decided to start working from home. Very soon some teams had already some parts of their design on the whiteboards and some pseudo-code was taking shape… a couple of teams requested additional Smartwatches, I understood why when they presented the solution the next day. One of the teams that had checked in the day before but could not stay, came back in the morning but dropped out after lunch… they started too late and realized that they would not be able to deliver anything consistent.

We were wondering why we did not have more participants showing up until we discovered that, at the same time, there was a very big Hackathon organized by the University of Stanford and later during the day we discovered that Code for America had organized at the same time CodeAcross 2015, a series of “civic hacking events” hosted by nodes of Code for America network around the world. It coincided with the International Open Data Day. The theme of CodeAcross 2015 was “Principles for 21st Century Government”.

I will come back with more about Code for America, the brigades, the fellows ,etc in a future post.

As I said above, those events must have certainly impacted the number of teams that participated; it is not normal that only a little bit more that 1/3 of participants checked in. According to Alic and Luke,statistically, the attrition percentage is around 35%.

Lunch and dinner were available, typical burritos, tortilla chips with different spicy sauces were served for lunch and Chinese food was served for dinner… more “eating while hacking”….

Teams were working hard and as we turned around the tables the solutions were taking shape…

We closed the second day at 22:00.

Next day we started at 9:00 again. The events in Cordoba, Granada and Barcelona had finished and the winners were already known:

“Pillow 112” an application for InWatch that activates an emergency protocol giving automatic response in case of situations of violence was the winner in Granada.

‘Saveme’, an application for assistance in emergencies and Help-App was the winner in Cordoba and an application for tracking and tracing medical emergencies, which was the winner in Barcelona.

In Berkeley, teams were asked to check-in their solutions just after lunch. Only six teams finally checked-in.

Every team had 10 min to present their solution, followed by questions by the panel. The evaluation criteria were as follows

1.Technical complexity

2..User experience

3.User Interface design

4.Degree of innovation


6.Meeting the hackathon objectives

7.Quality of the presentation

After all the presentations, the panel unanimously awarded the first prize to “inTime”.

inTime is an app for Smartwatches that notifies users when to leave for their next destination based on their calendar. The app uses GPS, pedometer, and barometric sensors to pinpoint where users are and how fast they walk from destination to destination. inTime incorporates multiple modes of transportation such as walking, driving, public transit, and Uber. User data is collected to identify quicker routes that Google Maps cannot provide as well as map out campuses, office buildings, and more.

The team will go to Barcelona to compete in the Global #CapmpusInwatch Hackathon Final with the winners from Granada, Córdoba and Barcelona.

Sending the winning team members to Barcelona is being quite an adventure….all kind of issues: passports missing, different origins, destinations and dates, changes in dates after the ticket has been issued, etc… I will sleep well when they arrive in Barcelona and even better when they will be back in Berkeley…

The next post will be after the final that will take place at the same time as the Mobile World Congress from March 2nd to March 4th.

Stay tuned and ….. Let the best team win !!!








Organizing a Hackathon @ UC Berkeley: Managing the project …. (Part 2 of 3)

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

I was in back in Berkeley on January 17th  after the Christmas break and I had to start moving very quickly if I wanted to meet the the very tight deadlines.

I called my first project meeting for January 20th with objective of taking stock of progress and agree on the activities and planning that would take us to the successful opening on February 2th of #Campusinwatch 2015Berkeley, that was the name and the hashtag for the hackathon.

Very quickly with the help of Miguel ,whose organization has a Microsoft Lync cloud account we could organize multi-party conference calls with all the participants on both sides of the Atlantic. Lync worked flawlessly this was very helpful.

It become clear that it was urgent to open the registration site and start advertising. Alic did an excellent job by creating very quickly the site on , ours was on and we saw the first registrations coming very fast. Luke was advertising on Fecebook and we agreed to send mass mailing to the available mailing lists in one week. Event launched !!!

In the mean time Luke had recruited some volunteers to help and they were added to the mailing list of the organizing committee.

Time to start with the logistics…… no “decent” Hackaton can be organized without T-Shirts… aha … needed to make design, collect the logos….. but… we have written permissions to use them..? Well , not exactly… do we have our first “showstopper” ? . Had to call a crisis meeting to see how to solve the issue.. We could not afford to have legal issues…..

But we could work in parallel in the mean time and  proceed with do the draft design of the T-Shirts and check the logistics for the delivery. One volunteer was assigned the task…. unfortunately she was overloaded and could not deliver… we lost a few days, time was running, we would need a week for delivery….. would we get there on time?

If participants had to develop applications for InWatchZ, we would need devices , technical documentation, perhaps specific libraries… InWatchZ will be running Android 4.4 (Kit-Kat), the open source libraries available on the Android web site should be enough…. hopefully… we needed information from China…

We expected the devices to be with us towards the first week of February….  but where were they, . I had requested the shipment of 25 to The Foundry but no news…. until we understood that they were retained in the US Customs since they were shipped from China, where the engineering and manufacturing takes place… we were lucky that US Customs called InWatch US to clear the shipment… I had already warned everybody that this might happen… you know my preferred sentence “I told you so…” ;-).

Customs cleared, the devices for Berkeley arrived four days before the starting date of the hackaton… we were good !!!

The situation for Spain was different …….. the shipment was still blocked in HongKong just three days before the starting date of the event. We were asked to ship ten devices to Madrid….. no guarantee they would arrive on time…. we decided not to do it.

The logo issue was , in the mean time, solved and another volunteer took over the design using the web tools of a T-shirt manufacturing company and we were ready to order with the hope that the T-Shirts would arrive on time since the estimated delivery time was one week….. at the same time we sent the customized design to Spain for them to order there.

Then a new issue came up, under the advice of one of the Directors of the CET, Luke came with the request for signing a so called “Project Agreement Document” with all the responsibilities of the participant parties, including description of the prizes, budget estimation, etc to formalize the process.

In order to avoid getting stuck, I immediately took over the action and prepared a draft of such document and circulated it for agreement. After a couple of revisions the document was ready to be signed by all the parties: InWatch USA, Global In Devices, CETSA, The Foundry@CITRIS, …. but how to make everybody sign to complete the action if they were in three different locations?

I remembered that when I went to the ICA Conference in Ottawa back in October 2014, we had a meeting with Intel that was under Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA). In order for all the participants to formally accept it, they used Docusign to electronically sign the document.

Docusing is a company which offers a Software as a Service (SaaS) called Digital Transaction Management (DTM). It has emerged as a category of software designed to safely and securely manage document-based transactions digitally. DTM removes friction inherent in processes that involve people, documents, and data inside and beyond the “firewall” (outside the network of the organizations) to create faster, easier, more convenient and secure transactions. DTM delivers a suite of services that empower companies to easily deploy and update digital processes without the traditional expense and programming required of older enterprise applications.

Docusign is a worldwide service which claims that its electronic signatures are legally binding around the wall.

I thought that Docusign could help me to solve the signature issue and decided to test the service. I  saw on their site that there was the opportunity for a free trial and I signed up for it.

The system did not look very intuitive at the beginning and I thought it would be better to read the help before starting to start. I followed the instructions and uploaded the Project Agreement… unfortunately it would not upload and the “processing ring” was turning all the time. At the same time, the document appeared in the list as draft ….. very strange. I gave up and told myself that the system was useless…. and that I had to figure out another approach to the signing of the document…

When I came back to the office the next day, I decided to give it a try again and this time the document uploaded immediately, I typed in the names and the email addresses of the people that had to sign, I set the flag to be able to track progress as the signature workflow progressed and one hour later I had the document electronically signed by everybody.. cool !!!

In the meantime, I thought that Alic and Luke deserved also to be recognized for the excellent work they were carrying out and after some discussion I manage to convince InWatch USA and Global In Devices to fly them to Barcelona to help with the final hackaton. Alic will also go to Granada after Barcelona to set up relationships between The Foundry@CITRIS, the University of Granada and the startups in the Technology Park….. a good way of strengthening the relationships between universities in USA and EU. Unfortunately Luke cannot afford to miss more classes and exams therefore he will be back after the Mobile World Congress.

Here we were two days before the starting of the event with nearly all the preparatory actions nearly completed.. the T-Shirts arrived and they were cool as well …. miracles happen … 😉

Stay tuned for the third and final part !!!



Organizing a Hackathon @ UC Berkeley: The project and its origins…. (Part 1 of 3)

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

For those who are not familiar with the term, hackathon is the term used in the hacker community to refer to a meeting of programmers whose aim is the collaborative software development, although it may also have, in some case, a hardware component. These events can last for two to three days. The goal is twofold: first to make contributions to a, very often open source, project and second, to learn without haste, but with the aim of developing solutions that might lead to new startups. That is why in many hackathons there is also a component of mentoring and search for business angels.

The term integrates the concepts of marathon and hacker, alluding to a collective experience that pursues the common goal of developing applications in a collaborative short period of time.

Many hackatons have educational and stimulating purposes, as well as social to improve the quality of life, but we also propose the goal of creating usable software that might become a product marketable by a new startup.

Hackathons, from an organizational point of view, have a horizontal and intensive dynamic where participants complement individual experiences and skills in order to develop concrete solutions. They promote collaborative work among peers oriented towards problem solving, putting the focus on the work process as a form of collaborative learning and promoting the intrinsic motivation of participants.

Some months ago when I went to San Francisco for some meetings, I met Juan Francisco, a friend of mine from Granada, who was in charge of the Telecenters organization in Andalucía , a very successful experience in the region that started with the aim to increase IT literacy in small villages and that , with the time, got involved in social entrepreneurship.

The initiative funded by the Regional Government of Andalucía, with the contribution of EU funds, was, thanks to his energy and efforts, one of the most successful around the world in this area. He is internationally known it the circles.

In that meeting, Juan Francisco told me about the possibilities of a new generation of standalone SmartWatches (no need to have a Smartphone for them to receive messages, call or go to the Internet) that would make a breakthrough in the future, particularly when connected to “wearables”… we are already in the Internet of Things (IOT)here…

In order to promote these technologies he told me he would like to organize a series Hackathons to facilitate the development of applications for that kind of devices and he would like to have my help to organize one at UC Berkeley, since the university has a good reputation in computer science, at the same time as the other hackathons that he was organizing in Spain and possibly in South America.

You know me, I am a long life learner, this was anew experience… and I like challenges; I had never involved in the organization of a Hackathon and I decided to give it a try in my “free time”….  whatever it means  😉

Now, how to go about it?…

I knew there was a big Hakathon at UC Berkley at the beginning of the winter semester, it took place at so called Greek Theatre and it gathered more than 2000 hackers.

It was a general purpose one and any kind of IT related projects (hardware, software, web, mobile, etc) were accepted.

I contacted Costas Spanos, the Director of CITRIS, the Institute I am working with, for guidance and to get contact points for the activity and I also asked him if CITRIS would be interested in sponsoring our hackathon.

He replied immediately and put me in contact with Alic Chen , the head of “The Foundry @ CITRIS” so that he would look at my proposal and report to him with a Business Case.

The Foundry @ CITRIS was created in 2013 to help entrepreneurs build companies that make a significant impact on the world. A new economy is developing at the intersection of hardware, software and services. The Foundry provides access to design, manufacturing & business development tools, along with a community of entrepreneurs and experts to transform entrepreneurial teams into founders.

Since it was created, The Foundry has helped to create 14 companies, helped to raise more than 7 M$ in venture capital for them and it estimated that has contributed with more than 18 M$ to the Californian economy…… not too bad. Furthermore, The Foundry helped to organize the big hackathon I mentioned above.

I had a meeting with Alic and he immediately bought the idea and from there we started working.

The Foundry would sponsor the event and would contribute making available the infrastructure (space, tables, chairs, electricity, etc), will act as a consultant to help with the details of the organization (including budget estimation) and will liaise with the Administration to ensure, Security and cleaning of the premises after the event. Those weekend services are compulsory and are invoiced by the administration to the organizers.

The next step was to see how to reach the” hacker” population, particularly Berkeley students but no only to advertise the event and get as many registrations as possible.

But this was not enough, we needed more logistics support….

A few weeks before I had participated in a dinner organized by one of the Visiting Scholars from the University of Valencia who was here to collect information about Spanish startups in the valley and to see how the startup environment developed at UC berkeley.

There, I met a south Korean undergrad student whose “nick name” was Luke (his real name is Kun-hyoung Kim… he thought that his real first name would be too complicated to pronounce or remember here and therefore he decided to sign as Luke Kim…. very practical guy … and very interesting one…)

He is one of the most significant members of CETSA (Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology Student Association) which is linked to the UC Berkeley’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology (CET) equips engineers and scientists with the skills to innovate, lead and productize technology in the global economy.

I met Luke again in one of the UC Berkeley conferences and explained to him my idea.

We agreed to speak about it in detail around a cup of coffee the next day and after my explanations he bought the idea and agreed to create a group of volunteers to help with the organization and to advertise the event on their page in Facebook and send the invitation to participate to their mailing lists.

Next step was to agree with the two sponsoring companies, InWatch USA and Global In Devices in Spain, on the precise objectives for the hackathon, including the prizes for the winners and to get a clear commitment for the payment of all the expenses.

Based on the estimations provided by Alic , I prepared a budget proposal to get the agreement of the sponsoring companies and after some discussion I got it.

Juan Francisco also decided to involve Miguel Raimilla, the Head of, the worldwide organization coordinating the Telecenter movement since he has a very good network of contacts and has experience in this kind of events. Miguel on board… I knew him and he is a nice guy..

We were nearly ready to go but…………we were already close to the end of the winter semester and after the winter exams everybody would disappear until mid-January……

Taking into account that the prize for the winners would be to go to a Final Hackathon at the Mobile World Cogress in Barcelona (March 2nd to 5th, 2015) it meant that the last possible week end to organize the UC Berkeley hackathon was the weekend of February 20th, at the same time as the other three hackathons taking place in Spain.

It also meant that we would had only four working weeks to deliver……. a lot of discipline and control of the activities would be required…. real project management skills needed…. 😉

Stay tuned for part two, soon