Pearl Hacks 2017

The hackathon game has been changed. I just went to my first all-females hackathon at the University of North Carolina- Pearl Hacks!

I finished class at 10am on Friday and hastily made my way to the airport. I remember stepping foot on my flight to Toronto- where I would have a 4 hour layover prior to reaching Raleigh. I was so drained from that week of school, I recall messaging my mom telling her that I wish I never accepted the hackathon offer. After all, I was flying to the smallest little city where I knew no one.

When I landed, I was greeted by the friendliest hug from a girl holding a “Pearl Hacks” sign. My phone then rang and I was notified that my ride was here. On our way to the University, the car full of girls talked back and forth about the Computer Science courses we were taking, hack ideas, and even dabbled on where to get cocoa butter in non-lotion form. 

It was about midnight when I arrived and all the hackers were tucked into their sleeping bags and drifted into dream land. That was definitely a shocking sight as I almost pride myself in never sleeping at hackathons. But I too, grabbed an air mattress and drifted away after chatting with the coordinators for a bit.

When I woke up the next morning, I, along with 2 other girls decided to head out to Franklin street to do a bit of exploring before the hackathon officially started. It was loads of fun. We grabbed coffee, took pictures, shared jokes about me being Canadian and falling in love with Walgreens- you know, the usual. We then headed back and decided to become a team and hack together. 

After approximately 12 hours of brainstorming and crossing out every idea in our notepads, we found a girl whose team last minute bailed on her, and was looking to join a new one. We met up with her and chatted about ideas. Finally, we came up with the idea to create a mobile app that would allow users to tap their phones against a street performer’s NFC tag, and tip them on the go. 

We used Ionic (AngularJS) and Cordova for our application framework. We originally wanted to do this in Java, but because of the time constraints we were facing, this definitely seemed like a more optimal solution. We were then able to parse information from the NFC tags and connected them to Amazon’s DynamoDB to store street performer’s profiles.

Despite desperately wanting to finish the project with a time crunch, our spirits were still high and I don’t remember a moment when we weren’t laughing at each other’s jokes. (2 of those involve evaluating a significant other’s potential based on their GitHub commits, and the phrase “code digger”) 

We ended up winning Overall Third Place, Best Open Source Hack, and the Best Use of Technology Hack. Bear with me as I say this but the most important thing that I won was the opportunity to meet the 3 girls on my team- speaking of which, I just got a notification from them on our Facebook group chat. 

As someone who walked into Pearl Hacks with little expectations, I return home with my heart filled from the support of a tight knit community, with the common goal to Hack the Glass Ceiling.

Read more about our project- Encore here.