Sunday, March 9, 2008

F1 Web Challenge

Last weekend I volunteered my time for a non-profit charity website programming event. It was one of the most fun events I've been a part of and would do it again in a heartbeat. Here's the scoop on what happened.


A local consulting company named Sierra Bravo decided to sponsor an event that would bring 10 teams of 8 technology people together with 10 non-profits. They made a competition out of the event pitching it as "24-hours of overnight programming". Each technology team could use any programming language and/or system they wanted to, but after the 24 hours the programming was to stop and a panel of judges would decide who created the best website. The winning team won some small prizes, but the big deal was that they won "bragging rights" as the F1 Web Challenge Winner for 2008. The event was 24 hours of programming time, but with breaks, time to setup and tear down and presentations I was awake for 36 hours straight!

Oh, also the plan was originally to have 10 teams and 10 non-profits, but because of overall demand it was decided to "take it to 11" and another team and non-profit would be added.

My team

My team was name Ruby.MN, a collection of local Twin Cities developers who met at our local Ruby Users of Minnesota (RUM) meetings. We had two designers who are not programmers and one person who specializes in Quality Assurance. We had a "dream team" - some really solid rock-stars covering all area of technology and design.

Our non-profit

Our non-profit randomly chosen was "Little Brother's Friends of Elderly" and we were designing and implementing the MN chapter. We were very excited to get a chance to work with this non-profit. They do some amazing work combating loneliness and working with elderly citizens when it comes to both mental and physical health and well being. Kathleen was the person from the organization that we worked with and she was a real trooper. She stayed with us the whole time and was one of the best clients I've ever worked with. Very open and understanding of our limitations in the timeframe we were under and she was very excited that she was working with the Ruby.MN team!

Photos from the event

My schedule for the 36 hours went as follows:
  • 6:00 AM - Wake up.
  • 6:45 AM - I arrive to the place where the event is being held (St. Paul, U of M campus). I get signed in and set up at our tables. They provided us some breakfast.
  • 7:30 AM - Non-profits are matched up with team, rules are explained and coding commences.
  • 12:00 PM - We stop for a break and lunch from BW3's.
  • 1:00 PM - Coding resumes.
  • 6:30 PM - Break for dinner from Chipolte.
  • 7:00 PM - Coding resumes.
  • 8:30 PM - Break for prizes to be given out (I win an HD-DVD of a National Geographic Special)
  • 8:45 PM - Break for playing "Rock Band". Ruby.MN comes in 2nd place on the applause-o-meter.
  • 10:30 PM - We had a clown show especially for the Ruby.MN team!
  • 12:00 AM - Midnight snack from Dominoes.
  • 3:00 AM - All are feeling very tired. A few take a break for some sleep. I continue to stay awake and work.
  • 6:30 AM - Breakfast is brought in. Bagels, doughnuts.. lots of energy drinks!
  • 12:00 PM - Coding stops.
  • 12:30 PM - Lunch is served. Chinese buffet.
  • 1:30 - Presentations are performed in front of all of the teams and the judges.
  • 2:30 PM - Event is complete and the winner is crowned.
  • 3:00 PM - Clean up my stuff and call Becky to be picked up.
  • 3:30 PM - Becky and I go on a walk up to the store.
  • 6:00 PM - I fall asleep on the couch after being awake for 36 hours.
This was an awesome experience and one in which I feel like I learned as much as shared. One of the other guys on the team I heard say something like, "This is something that more conferences should do, instead of sitting in a room and listening to one person ramble on." I completely agree. Usually when you go to technology conferences (or probably any conference I would argue), it's all about sitting in a room and letting one person present and trying to learn from them in 45-90 minute increments. Some sessions very in time, but they all are basically the same. One presenter and many attendees. How about doing a programming exercise for the conference - one where all the attendees of the conference build something? The F1 Web Challenge was a competition, but it really was a technology caucus. People who knew each other, shared ideas even across teams and all of the work and positive energy was directed towards the non-profits, as opposed negative energy towards each other.

Final Verdict

Well, after the sites were all judged and all of the points were tallied, only one winner could be awarded... I'm sorry to say however it was not Ruby.MN who was crowned the winner. To be honest, it was nearly impossible to choose one winner in this event. All of the teams created some beautiful and useful websites for their charity. Great job job everyone!

Anyway, check out the links below for the information on the event and a "live blogging" one of my teammates did during the event. Once the site we built is fully functional and live, I'll be sure and post an update here with the all of the details. Here's some simple "before" and "after" screenshots.



Additional Links

Live Blogging By Samuel Schroeder

Official F1 Web Challenge Website

1 comment:

Barry Hess said...

Reading the blog postings and such, the event seemed like a great, great success - and a lot of fun! I think I need to get involved next time...