Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

On the 18th of may I went to a hackathon of the master program Digital Design on the UvA (University of Amsterdam). This hackathon was set up through our minor program Web Development on the HvA (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences). There was just one thing.. we had five hours to complete or make an project.

Upon arrival we had an introduction and a quick rundown on the available projects and a wide arrangement of cases they had. There was a case like building an interview application and a case that shared your location with your closest friends to have a safe walk/ride home.

But there was one project that sticked out. It was a project about The future of sleep from an awesome digital creative named Matthew. His concept was about future technologies and it focussed on manipulating sleep so you can sleep instant and wake up whenever you please. Sounds scary, i know. Matthew really wanted to know how this would work in application form and what would the application core functionality be. This application would be paired with a TDCS (Transcranial Direct-Current Stimulation) device that uses TMC (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) to affect your sleep by pulsing magnetics so your brain thinks it’s time to sleep.

TDCS device (image from https://neurogadget.net/)

Getting started

Well when I was dead set on picking this project I noticed more wanted to do this project. So we quickly made a team of six and sat with Matthew to figure out what the goal is. While explaining and brainstorming we found out his prototype had a great setup, so we created a “list” of things that were important to the usage of this application:

  • We wanted to make the use of device + app not addicting.
  • We wanted to let the user have control of setting up a time.
  • The user should be alerted or shown what the battery life is of the device (to avert the device on being empty and you waking up later or never?).
  • Limit the user on usage (this is future tech and we don’t know how bad this could be for you).

Our spin on the idea

The Hifi-prototype of Matthew was pretty good and had a lot of research done. So we wanted to realise his prototype and add our “important” functionalities. This made making sketches, and think about user experience and have a visual design kind of obsolete. So we thought why not create something native! A challenge with a deadline and ambition.

Splitting tasks

Splitting the tasks was first setting up having a team working on the actual code to make the native app. Then we looked at the time and thought okay we want to give Matthew something he can build upon. We had a team that focussed on working native side, then there was a team where i was apart of that worked on the styling and there was a team that worked on documenting.

So the setup was made, we had an idea and we split the work load. and we had less than three and a half hours.

Development

So working with React Native isn’t really my expertise even though I want to learn it I just really didn’t want to mess with it in less than three hours. So we created the prototype and made the CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) in a way that we could just copy — paste the style. Me and Max de Vries had to find a spot to work and build the whole prototype in an hour so that we still had time to test and compile. Let’s say it was stressful (I mean fun!). Max and I worked in a project together but, always a different functionality so we never really worked together on one thing.

This is the moment where a hackathon shines in my opinion. Working with people you not know and share knowledge. We all have one goal to finish our part/our product. You learn to work with people (even though the insane time constraint: two hours left..) that can learn you a thing or two.

Development hell

Well, while max and I are high five-ing as we have finished the prototype and walk back. We noticed that we have an hour and thirty minutes left. We delivered to the React Native team which contained Sam Guliker and Kevin Wang. Let’s say we walked into the room and a very distressed Sam and as I call “broken” Kevin. There were compiling issues and the application didn’t really work on Sam’s laptop. Plus Kevin his Xcode really didn’t want to work anymore sooooo…

2 panel comic from KC Green (https://twitter.com/kcgreenn)

Ohh we have less than one hour.. So while Kevin has my laptop and his laptop on the desk trying to compile and ship it.

To know more about the process of Sam’s side and this amazing last hour read his article about the experience!

To end this story…

We presented a React Native app that functionally kind of worked but we made something we were proud of. We grew as developers in five hours. With that time we made a concept come te life and had a very proud Matthew!

A web developer. Definitely a music geek.

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