The HackItMac Workshops

Week #1: The Development Awakens (Recap)

Introducing the HackItMac workshops. The workshops are a 16-week series event that will teach McMaster students how to become full-stack developers. This means learning web development, including front-end and back-end, with the chance to develop in iOS. The workshops are primarily focused on the MEAN stack (mongo, express, angular, and node).

At the first workshop, which occurred this past October 21, 2015, students gathered in a second floor classroom in IAHS on hump day. Between all their assignments, project, and midterms, a classroom full of students from numerous faculties sat side by side to learn just a bit more in their busy schedules for a few hours.

This first workshop was lead by Kurt DaCosta, an upper year computer science student here at McMaster University, who gave an overview of the MEAN Stack: MongoDB, Express.js, Angular JS, and Node.js. Why MEAN? Well it is a free and open-source software stack in which the four applications are all using the high-level programming language, JavaScript, which makes it easy to compile. It is also very useful because according to Kurt, MEAN is “great for hackathons […] there are online templates which saves time and makes everything easier”.

After giving an overview of the MEAN stack, Kurt lead the class through a series of commands, which lead to the picture below. Where each individual setup their own localized server and produced similar pages.

But it wasn’t a straight forward, one person show, as there were other HackItMac team members and other fellow, mainly computer science, students who helped debug the program.

There were a combination of participates I spoke with, including a Health Science student, numerous Software Engineering students, and a majority of Computer Science students. Each and everyone of them had varying experience levels with web development, but everyone’s response to why they were there was simply, “because I want to learn”.

As mentioned before, everyone was helping each other out, and both the beginners and experienced did indeed learn something new. Whether it was learning what the heck a MEAN stack is to learning that the new line of code is needed to initialize Express.

Overall, Week #1 — The Development Awakens, was a great start to the beginning of a useful learning experience.

The video below has the full workshop that was streamed live online:

During the first workshop the instructors for the following eight weeks, Kurt DaCosta and Shawn Simon, were introduced. Here is a bit of information about the workshops’ lead instructors:


Kurt DaCosta is an undergraduate Computer Science student completing his last year of study. Alongside HackItMac, Kurt is VP Technology of the DeGroote Association for Information Systems. Kurt’s experience includes developing mobile apps, analytical tools, and cloud infrastructure in industry and academia. His last start-up Woof grew to 60K users. Kurt is currently working at McMasters Digital Music Lab, researching global music consumption. This past September he presented his first conference paper on music recommendations at CogMIR 2015.


Shawn Simon is a Mechatronics Engineering student finishing up his final year. Shawn’s work experience includes working with 3D printers in the EPIC lab, teaching, researching and implementing adaptive cruise control system for GM, and iOS and Web development for multiple companies. Currently he is working in Toronto for Konrad Group as a iOS and web developer and as an instructor at BrainStation hacker school. As one of the first instructors for BrainStation’s web immersive course, he actively will be involved in the full stack developer lessons for HackItMac.