App Hack brings talent together for multidisciplinary event

Lead image for the news story 'App Hack brings talent together for multidisciplinary event'

App Hack is taking a multidisciplinary, cross-faculty approach for a 36-hour event at The Shed in April.

“This will be my first hack!” smiles Lloyd Strickland, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at MMU, referring to App Hack, a new interdisciplinary and cross-faculty event taking place over 36 hours in April.

“The hack – and the wider lateral thinking project it supports – is bringing together staff and students from diverse departments, and exciting things happen when people from different areas come together in support of a common project.”

A gathering of expertise from across MMU faculties, the hack on the weekend of 15-17 April is aimed at students with skills in Illustration, Animation, Graphic Design, Content Creation, Software Engineering and Project Management.

The deadline for registering through Eventbrite is 15 March. Once participants have been selected, their combined talents will be put to work in interdisciplinary teams with the aim of visualising a range of lateral thinking puzzles created by Strickland.

New digital life

Originally conceived as a book, the text-based puzzles have taken on a whole new digital life since Strickland was introduced to Laurie Cooper from DigitalLabs@MMU, a small software contracting company within the university. Cooper proposed a wholly different approach.

“What convinced me to go down the app route was Laurie’s exciting proposal for ‘100 puzzles in 100 weeks’,” says Strickland. “I realised then that through an app we had the opportunity to create something not just intellectually stimulating but visually attractive and interactive.”

Cooper concurs. “The interactive nature of an app means that we can play with the presentation of the puzzles in creative ways, giving each one a different atmosphere, leading the puzzler off in different directions and taunting them with visual or audio clues, or subtle interactions.”

Operating like an intense three-day ideas factory and digital production line, the hack will be packed with challenges designed to encourage cross-faculty working and stretch the capabilities of the participants.

“It’s a tall order!” says Cooper. “Our specialists will be built into teams and given a lateral thinking problem to illustrate.

“They then need to figure out a creative interpretation and storyboard it, while thinking how best it should be animated, while thinking about the limitations of the device on which it will be playing, while working out how to upload it to a site, and download it to a device.

“They’ll need to have just the right amount of creative ambition to produce something exciting, but which can be ready on time.”

Distinct phases

The App Hack will be split into three distinct phases, with milestones and support from key mentors. The teams will be provided with constructive examples to get them started quickly and confidently. All the work produced over the 36 hours will be made available for students’ portfolios and will be presented on the MMU site, with appropriate credits.

“DigitalLabs’ remit is to give our students and recent graduates experience of authentic projects which must deliver,” explains Cooper. “Software projects are great, because they glue concepts together; there is the combination of learning about a customer’s environment and needs, interpreting those in software and delivering on time.

“App Hack is intended to illustrate this: we’ll be taking all the specialisms necessary to produce an app, building teams and guiding them to a delivery. Along the way, we’ll be learning all about the process; how we can collaborate and organise ourselves to the best effect in a short time.”

Strickland and Cooper are clearly excited about the whole event, and with the deadline for participants to register looming, they’re eager to see the teams in action.

“I can’t wait to see how it goes,” says Cooper. “I’m hopeful that this will be the first of many events.”

Register your interest in taking part in the App Hack here by 15 March 2016. App Hack takes place at The Shed, MMU, from 5pm Friday 15 April – 4pm Sunday 17 April 2016