App Hack weekend exceeds expectations

Lead image for the news story 'App Hack weekend exceeds expectations'

Students from three MMU faculties joined together for a weekend app development hackathon run by Digital Labs and Digital Innovation in the Shed at MMU.

The hackathon was based around work done by Philosophy lecturer Lloyd Strickland, who has been developing a range of lateral thinking puzzles over a number of years.

“I now have about 100 puzzles and for a while I had been thinking about the best way to take them to the next stage. When I first talked to the team at Digital Labs and Digital Innovation I could see immediately the potential to get these to a wider audience through an app for handheld devices.”

More than 20 students worked in three teams over the course of the weekend. They were supported by mentors from industry, staff from MMU and student project managers.

“A hackathon can be quite an intense experience and we cram a lot into just a few days,” said Hayley Walsh, Digital Innovation Relationships Officer. “The aim is to give participants the opportunity to develop skills that are outside their usual course of study.”

Laurie Cooper, Enterprise Fellow in Computing, Maths and Digital Technology, and Project Lead for Digital Labs, said: “Team work is at the heart of this and everyone gets something from meeting new people and working together in new ways. We also hope that this kind of experience will be useful when it comes to impressing potential employers – but overall, we aim to make it fun!”

Increasingly popular

Hackathons are increasingly popular as a method of bringing together artists and technicians with a view to creating new software, hardware or even processes within a business. Participants find that a concentrated effort over a short period of time, and developing new relationships and ways of working, can bring real benefits.

Creative Multimedia student Florin Nica said: “It’s been a fantastic experience and has exceeded my expectations; I didn’t expect to learn so much in such a short time. I have a bit more experience of managing people and it is great to work with students from other disciplines. It’s been a great learning experience for everyone.”

By the end of the weekend each of the three groups had produced a demonstration app that included animation, music and text, testing aspects of gameplay and user interface.

Graphic designer Gary Nip, who was acting as a mentor to the students, summed up the experience: “In my day job I am collaborating all the time with people across the world and this kind of exercise is absolutely essential preparation for that.

“The intensity of the experience is really important as it allows you to pull the creativity out of yourself, but also you’ve got to be able to get on with the rest of the team and experience other personality types, as well as cope with different levels of expertise and skillsets.”