nwHacks 2016

So a while back I posted about how excited I was about going to nwHacks. So, here is my post about it! :)

My group and I met through the "nwHacks attendees" Facebook page. I totally recommend searching for a group through pages like that! I was originally not going to go since my original team completely fell apart. However, I'm so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to team up with people I have never met before! We went in the hackathon with the thought that maybe we could just make a Grade Calculator, until we realized that Benegg does something very similar & it would be difficult for us to add features (ie curving of grades, since there is no universal system to perform curving etc). Therefore, we needed to come up with something else. After about an hour of brainstorming, we came up with a completely different idea of creating a Chrome Extension, which performs encryption & decryption of text with just the click of a button. (Pretty far off from our original idea, eh?) 

Then, it was time to get working. None of us have ever made a Chrome Extension before so we had to learn that right away. Turns out, we only had to create an extra manifest.json file and the rest was just JavaScript. We used HTML & jQuery as well to get the extension running. It is interesting because I haven't coded much with JavaScript before this Hackathon, but now I could honestly say that I feel a lot more comfortable with JS (which is crazy since I spend an entire term learning Racket, and still felt pretty iffy about it until I started making my own side projects). 

We did encounter a lot of difficulties while making this project, and the main one was bridging the activeTab and the Extension itself, as we wanted to automatically replace any text which was highlighted, with either the encrypted or decrypted version. When we got the Extension to finally talk to the website, our team screamed (it was 4am?).  Then of course, we had to come up with an extremely secure encryption & decryption system, which we opted using the RSA cryptosystem for.

After that, we simply made a website using a bootstrap template, designed an Extension icon, the logo for our website, a video tutorial and voila!

While demo-ing, all our hopes and dreams of winning any type of award fell apart. Other teams had such amazing projects. Thankfully, our goal was not to win in the first place, but rather to just have a good time at our first ever Hackathon. But here comes the best part, we actually ended up winning first place of $2000 from PrivateInternetAccess for our project. That, was the highlight of my University career thus far.

This hackathon was the best first hackathon experience I could have gotten. And also, since one of our teammates was from The University of Washington, perhaps we will all meet again next year at DubHacks. :) To many more hackathons to come.

Check out more about my project here!