The Road to HackFairPH 2015

HackFair

Google HackFair started in Korea way back in 2012 as a way to showcase awesome projects and ideas that were created using Google technologies. Last December 19 and 20, 2015, Google Developers Group Philippines (GDG-PH) brought HackFair to the archipelago with its own vibe and Filipino flair, and made it an interactive two-day event that will feature various selected projects submitted by different teams from various GDG chapters throughout the Philippines.

Attendees huddled over beanbags at HackFairPH 2015. (Photo: Romar Mayer Micabalo)

Since HackFair is still fairly new to the country, various GDG chapters conducted their own local HackTime events spreading the word about HackFair, and encouraging local developers to submit their projects for possible selection as one of the featured projects in the very first HackFair event to be held in the country.

Rorie and I went to HackTime without a clear idea of what to do.

Joining HackTime

Last December 6, GDG Philippines’ local chapter GDG Cagayan de Oro held the first HackTime event in the city and it is this event that my daughter Rorie Kyne and I attended. Initially though my wife was hesitant and I can perfectly understand her hesitation. She was afraid that our daughter might just get bored, and plainly get disinterested in technology. I reasoned out that it most likely will never happen. Rorie was able to attend past Google-related events namely two GDG DevFests, some meetups, and codelabs, and even attended some events held by our own local IT group called ITG-X, and events by our local Python group called PyTsada.

After some prodding and reassurances, my wife conceded with some reminders to make sure that Rorie is kept engaged and interested. I said “Ok” with a slight smile.

HackTime

Rorie and I went to HackTime without a clear idea of what to do. I did have some coded stuff created in the past and other ongoing projects and interests. One in particular was, a project that Jay Ginete and I have been doing, called Raincheck which is a security application. I did submit Raincheck as one of my entries and if it gets chosen, Jay and I will be the ones to fly to Manila.

And since Rorie and I were already sitting in the venue for HackTime, we had to think of an idea of what to create. Out of the blue. she said “Papa, screenshots.” At first, I wasn’t able to hear her clearly which prompted her to repeat, “Papa, screenshots!” Then I understood.

Minecraft and the need for screenshots

Rorie is an avid Minecraft user. She plays it a whole lot but on a strict schedule. She goes to school mornings on weekdays, and plays Minecraft in the afternoon from 2pm to 4pm and takes a nap afterwards. This will then be followed by assignments and studying, and then dinner. Her after-dinners are almost always followed by non-schoolwork reading, drawing and doodling, or painting, whichever she feels like on that day. Some TV viewing might follow if there’s still time, usually around 8:30pm to 9pm and usually it’s just WWE or cartoons.

Whenever she’s playing, she’d always try to message me via Google Hangouts about her builds but I won’t be able to see it prompting her to just describe what she sees. And since she’s using Ubuntu at home, she’s not familiar where the Minecraft screenshots are located so she can’t upload it on Hangouts or on Facebook so I can take a peek.

Rorie’s idea is actually quite ingenious, at least to me. It will make it much easier for her to share screenshots to me or her mom, and we can talk about it online either on Facebook, or Hangouts, or whatever we can use to share the screenshots.

Rorie posing with our app “Hummed” running on a tablet. (Photo: Romar Mayer Micabalo)

Submission

The deadline for the submission of ideas for HackFair was on December 12, 2015. I haven’t been really giving it too much thought to submit Rorie’s idea for HackFair considering that I have no mobile development experience, and only very basic (and obsolete!) knowledge of Javascript. Despite the fact that both of us are Android users (she has a tablet running Ice Cream Sandwich and a Gingerbread phone, while I have a Lollipop phone), none are mobile devs. None.

Regardless, I crammed up and started learning Ionic, and Firebase, downloaded Android Studio and installed the necessary Google APIs for Android, and just said “what the heck! let’s do this!” and took the plunge.

After downloading all the required stuff, I was able to have something displayed on the phone. Not quite yet the application that can be considered usable. It was basic, stupid, elementary, and something that a kid can cobble up in minutes. Duh! I just took them up a few hours ago!

In a few more hours and it will be deadline for the submission. Clock is ticking. If we’re gonna submit Rorie’s idea, we might as well make sure there’s something we can present. I labored at the code, and read the documentation for some two hours more.

I opened up the online registration form for HackFair PH and there it was — we need to submit a video about the app!

I totally freaked out. I messaged Josan Astrid Dometita, GDG-CDO’s Community Manager, seeking advice on what to do. We don’t have an app yet. What we have is an Ionic sample thingy that shows “Hello, world!” on the damn phone! And she just said “Kaya mo yan!” (“You can do it!”). Somehow deep inside, I find that very doubtful.

Ok, again to hell with it. I need to think of something else. We do not have an app. We don’t have a description of the app. We have nothing! Think, Romar, think!

Then it hit me. Video. The key is the video. What kind of video should we submit? And then it popped through my head. Ding!

We decided to record a video of Rorie describing the main function and purpose of the app in around two to five sentences, more or less, then we have her show her Minecraft builds.

After recording the video, I quickly wrote a description of the app and basically put the things Rorie described into writing with some additions.

We’re almost done but not quite. Whether the app gets accepted or not, it doesn’t matter. At least we went through the process, and the coding work for Rorie’s app idea got started, and if it gets finished, she’ll have a tool she can use to share screenshots with me and my wife. I decided, whatever happens, it’s just going to be a family tool.

Boy, was I going to be so wrong.

The Surprise and then the pressure

December 12 came and went. The following days I labored reading more on Ionic, Firebase, the Facebook API, and anything I can get my hands on. I still have work on weekdays so I had to continue with studying and coding the app in the evenings.

Another dilemma was I can’t continue coding for much later into the night because I needed to wake up early to walk the dog and let it do its thing, and prepare to drop Rorie off to school and going to work. That leaves me with just a few hours of learning and coding time each day. This isn’t really a problem because I’m just aiming to get the app built for Rorie to use anyway.

Then an email arrived.

“Congratulations!

You’ve been selected as one of the Top 30 apps to be showcased during the first GDG HackFair Philippines. “

Doing her Hour of Code while HackFair was ongoing. (Photo: Romar Mayer Micabalo)

I was dumbstruck. Rorie’s idea was actually accepted to HackFair PH 2015. We got in! We actually got in! Then it sunk in. We need to have a working app. We need to fly to Manila. I need to tell my wife. What will she say? Will she say yes to Rorie and I flying to Manila? Too many questions. Too many things to think about. I needed to grab hold of my self and think.

Horror. We have a basic app. It’s not done. Am I out of my mind? The app is not done! I kept asking myself if I should say we’re going, or we’re not. GDG-PH is waiting for my reply. To confirm our going to HackFair, I needed to send the name of the project, high resolution logo, screenshots of the project, a full description of what the app does, and the name of the team members.

We need app screenshots! I’m crazy so, again jumping the gun, I decided not care if the app looked crappy now, I took two screenshots of the unfinished app, quickly crafted a logo, and replied.

Revelation

When I revealed to my wife Marj about our acceptance to HackFair, she became apprehensive again. I understand her. Metro Manila is far, very far. Marj is protective of Rorie, considering that she’s our only child. She can’t just rush to where we are if something bad happens. I understand it perfectly. I reassured her that I’m with her and I’ll take good care of our daughter. The pros outweigh the cons. So I enumerated some of the good things that might come out of this opportunity.

Proudly displaying her remake of the GDG logo within Minecraft. (Photo: Romar Mayer Micabalo)

If we push through attending HackFair, Rorie will be able to fly in a plane and visit Manila for the first time. She will be able to see a big city, bigger than our Cagayan de Oro which is puny by comparison. She will be exposed to, and possibly draw inspiration from, the various exhibits that will be displayed. And since the venue for the first HackFair is at the Mind Museum, she’ll be able to see the various museum exhibits as well and may help broaden her horizons some more.

She relented but with conditions. One, that I take good care of Rorie and always keep a close watch of her, and to take pictures, lots and lots of pictures. It’s a yes.

Going

Departure day was bittersweet. On the one hand, we are stoked to finally be going to HackFair, and on the other hand also sad because we’re leaving Mama behind. We barely talked. Marj kept giving Rorie reminders about what to do, make sure to keep hold of Papa’s hand always, never stray far from Papa, don’t talk to strangers, keep watch of things and baggage, take Mama’s calls (and Mama will be calling often), and more reminders.

Then Marj gestured to me, repeating the same. I nodded to all. We booked the airport shuttle tickets and we’re on our way to the airport. As the shuttle rolls past Marj, I can see her tears streaming down her cheeks. It is the first time that she will be home alone without us. Rorie and I were quiet. Both fighting back tears. My daughter is strong.

Rorie entertaining questions from attendees. (Photo: Romar Mayer Micabalo)

The airport is nearly an hour away. Half way through I decided to break the silence and chat about the exciting prospect of us getting on a plane together and seeing new things, spending time together, bonding as father and daughter which we never really get to do.

HackFair bonded us

We arrived in Manila, got booked by GDG PH at a super nice hotel (which I can never really afford), spent the whole weekend talking to people about our app idea, meeting new people, seeing new things and new ideas.

I was able to meet people I only followed online on Facebook like Bob Reyes of Mozilla PH, and Sony Valdez of PythonPH.

Rorie was able to see lots of new and cool things. She got introduced by Josan to some of the people who ran Hour of Code in Manila, and Rorie was asked to become one of the coordinators for Hour of Code in CDO.

We were able to visit and see the exhibits at Mind Museum and see various wonders of nature, science, and technology.

Rorie and myself accepting our trophies from Mr. Ken Lingan, Google’s Country Manager for the Philippines. (Photo: Google Developers Group Philippines)

With all the things that we’ve experienced over the past weekend, the most important experience we have was spending the time together as father and daughter, working on an idea and broadening our horizons together. To have this rare experience with Rorie, I have to thank a lot of people starting with my wife Marjorie because if she said “No”, then we won’t be able to experience this. We thank Ms. Chelle Gray and her GDG-PH team for having the event, and for being so awesome. Mama Chelle took care of us while in Manila. Josan Astrid Dometita, Bryan Carl Chug, and Gerardo Guangco, thank you guys for the hospitality and pure awesomeness. We hope to visit you guys again soon.

From the trip, I saw and realized that my daughter grew. I saw her intelligence at work. I saw her skills at communicating with other people. I saw her confidence building up. And more than ever, I saw that she’s just like her mom and me. No doubt about it.

I love her and I know that her future is very bright.

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