New Year Hackathon in Las Vegas and Surprise Winnings

2016 – How’s this for a new change? I’m currently in Las Vegas at the Palms Casino nightclub for a hackathon!


It’s Day 2 of the next 364. It might be a bit cliché to create new years goals but I welcome the opportunity to reflect on the past and set a plan for the future. I started my 30 before 30 project as a mini bucket list series of new activities I wanted to try (such as rock climbing and taking dance lessons), places around the world to visit and explore (including Angkor Wat and Rio de Janeiro) and existing skills to further hone (cooking and photography).

Along the way, I learned that there is so much truth to the old adage – it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. I didn’t cross off all the goals I had on my list, but I accomplished things I never expected. (Plus I’m keeping this blog going until either I come up with a new moniker or turn 31 haha). Now for my next project I don’t want to set a deadline per se (people have asked if I’m going to do a my 40 before 40!), I simply want to keep exploring and never stop learning.

So for my first post of the new year and first new adventure: My first hackathon – the AT&T Developer Summit

“Just sign up. There’s free food and swag”.

That’s what my sister, a seasoned hackathon participant and prize winner, said to persuade me to join her and Nick for the Las Vegas AT&T Developer Summit and Hackathon.

I signed up so I could see what it was about. As someone who has been involved in planning events and conferences, I was curious to see what this looked like.


We arrived about an hour after the floor opened and upon signing in, received our badge, a wristband to access the room, and a passport to collect stamps from all the sponsors (such as Qualcomm, Intel, IBM etc.).


We headed to the far north end of the casino to stake out a private spot to hack away.


Nick and Pokin had came prepared with some ideas to implement into their startup project, Peer (a 3D capturing robot) and laid out on our table a few samsung VR devices.


Tagging along with Pokin and Nick: me, my younger brother and Eric. All of us planned to leave after getting some swag. After helping ourselves to breakfast (the food was plentiful and it was good!), we had a visitor. He noticed our Virtual Reality gear!


Marty from Chicago introduced himself as someone keen to work on VR and was interested in joining a team. So, Eric said he would be interested in working on something too and the group of us walked around to explore the different kits the sponsors were offering!
Eric and Marty ended up having a long conversation with one of the Sponsors, NantMobile, that had expertise in Augmented Reality.

Augmented Reality Project Begins


Inspired by the technology available, Eric and Marty went about on their idea and formed Team FakeFace! A concept around how ridiculous it looks to see a person wear VR gear (it takes up most of your face!), so why not super impose your real face over the device? There were experts to help Eric and Marty realize this idea by sharing some tools – including this device to capture 3D renderings:



Throughout the day, Pokin, Wing and I would chat with the different tables to learn about their technologies and see how that could incorporate into Nick, or Marty and Eric’s idea. We also helped fetch developers to come chat with them. And of course, we scouted all the sweet freebies!

Swag and Freebies

This was the line up for the swag room. Everyone got a coloured wristband at registration and every 1.5 hours, there would be a new colour announced and anyone with that colour could swing by the prize room and select some prizes.


As I type this, I have been at this hackathon for almost 12 hours!

Everyone was tired, but we were all having fun.

Especially Nick when I surprised him with selfie-stick SWAG!


Look at all these winnings so far, even before the BIG prizes are doled out!
The Samsung Gear2 was my big takeaway of the day – retail value of $400 CAD!


Nick on the other hand, won an Amazon Echo (Only available in US at time of writing).

Ate some pretty good food



As a contrast to my Las Vegas post on “non-typical” activities such as hiking, I did the typical Las Vegas visit by hanging out in a club and pool!

Well, not really pictured as above because the club was taken over by tech geeks 😉

Summary: It’s been cool to see everyone working on these new projects and excited to see how the night progresses.


*** Day 2 ***

Another day – no more giant line ups for SWAG prizes, instead everyone is focused on wrapping up their projects before judging begins. Once again, the food choices are vast and plentiful. I go back to my writing and I also decide to put my brother to work to help me create a new look and feel for my blogging site. He starts working away on it and it’s really funny because people are taking lots pictures of him – he totally looks the part of a gamer/developer with his giant headphones and focused gaze.


At one point people are asking him about the website he’s making which is a bit embarrassing for me because as a test image, he has a giant picture of my face.

Oh look, he’s wearing his new Samsung Gear Smart Watch already)!

Later, a team of videographers come around to interview Pokin and Nick and said that they were taking pictures the previous night. They loved the one they captured of Nick. He looked so focused and so intense – the poster-child showcasing the mentality behind the people that go through this super strenuous task.

So – I’m watching them get interviewed and it’s inspiring to see how other people really believe in them and how excited they are about the Peer VR product! The film crew planned to follow different teams throughout the competition that were compelling and had a shot at the grand prize. It was very exciting to be around to hear all the support and encouragement from the various technology enthusiasts who were keen to learn more about  Peer – this cute and impressive device!

Team Peer had been working with various tool kits from the sponsors and exhibitors and even incorporated Nick’s new Amazon Echo – the device that operates with voice commands – to hook up functions to Peer.

You issue commands to the Echo Device by saying “Alexa, tell Peer to turn around” and in turn, the Echo would repeat this to Peer. We had fun coming up with other questions to “ask Peer” like, “Does Peer like cookies”? to which, Peer would physically nod, saying yes!

Soon, the sponsors come by to talk to Eric and Marty.

Judging Round Begins


There were a few hundred thousand dollars in cash prizes and Eric and Marty were up for a sponsor prize. Nick, Pokin and Michael with Team Peer on the other hand had incorporated several of the kits and were eligible for even more!

With judging finished, I spent my time checking out the other attendees and hackers by following the twitter stream with the #attsummit hashtag.

Oh! I find NantMobile and their images of Team FakeFace and start retweeting my support 🙂

In addition to cash prizes, 20 teams are selected to pitch on stage in front of the crowd, and Team Peer gets selected as one of them! The top 3 pitches go on to present during the Summit taking place the following days.

Top Pitches on Stage, including Team Peer


After all the pitches finish, Team Peer gets interviewed again:

Winners Announced

Then… the winners are announced. And there are a LOT of winners!
Team Peer wins a $5000 prize and they all head down to the main stage.

Marty comments, “I’ve always dreamed of holding one of those giant cardboard cheques!”

Then, when it comes to NantMobile naming their winner, they admit it was a really tough 3-way tie. Having heard that, I can tell we’re all thinking that our chances have probably sunk.

But to our utter surprise and delight, they announce Team FakeFace as the winner!! I run behind Eric and Marty to film their big moment!


They can’t believe they won!

What a story – these two strangers meet at the event (many people, like Team Peer, come prepared with an established team ) and are able still to create an interesting product in 36 hours that gets the thumbs up (and cash prize!) from the sponsors.


What can I say? I wanted to hold the giant cheque too!!


What an amazing start to 2016!! Congratulations again to all the winners and Team Fake Face and Team Peer!! Huge thanks to Pokin and Nick for convincing us all to show up!

After all, isn’t there a famous quote about life – 80% is just showing up.

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