On the weekend of November 9th and 10th, 2013 I had the pleasure of participating at PilotPhilly. PilotPhilly was a 24 hour hackathon for high school students. While I am not a high school student, I am a software engineer and the event put out the call for engineers to help out at the event as mentors. As a mentor, my job was to provide guidance to participants and give them suggestions if they became stuck on a problem.
The hackathon ran from 1 PM on Saturday to 1 PM on Sunday. Sunday afternoon, every group presented their projects. Some projects were serious, some not so serious, and some were downright hysterical.
This was my first hackathon and my overall impression was very positive. The kids were smart and polite, and the atmosphere of the event was one of very high energy. An added bonus was that many of the attendees had working knowledge of the UNIX command line.
So what sort of questions was I asked? Surpringly, the most asked questions were related to Git. I helped attendees resolve merge conflicts, set up remotes, and change their $EDITOR environment variable to be something easier to learn than Vi. The second biggest thing was Android development, which suggests to me that I should should learn more about Android. I also fielded requests for help with Xcode/iPhone development, Ruby and Rails, and helped one group get a server up and running on Amazon Web Services.
During the occasional downtime I had at the hackathon, I made use of the time to work on a few projects of my own. I put a few finishing touches on my web crawler and installed Docker for the first time and played around with it. That was a nice perk.
As stated above, I came away from the event with a very positive impression. I hope there will be more events like these in Philadelphia, and hope I can help out as a mentor again.