Woohoo! It’s time to start rolling out the red carpet for the 2017 UIT Startup Immersion High School Hackathon! What’s a high school hackathon, you say? Well, well, well, pull up a chair and let me tell you all about it.

Picture this: you arrive at our fun and funky space in downtown Sydney bright and early on Saturday, March 4th. You are greeted with an array of delicious and maaaaaaybe not-so nutritious breakfast foods to fill your belly that will get you ready to take on the day. We will introduce you to our amazing mentors and you can introduce yourself to everyone – there now, we are all friends.

You can enter a team or we can place you with a team, the choice is yours. Don’t
worry about how much programming, design, product development or computer skills you have because we will make sure you work with a group of people that complement the skills you do have. It’s a win-win situation.

You will spend about an hour working with your awesome team to come up with some ideas to build a web or mobile product. Think about the fun apps you like to engage with or the best websites you always visit – what makes them great? What makes them interesting to you? You’ll begin mapping out and building out your digital product and putting the pieces together as a team.

Bring on the lunch time spread! Eat until you can’t eat anymore and then it’s back to work on your masterpiece. Did we mention that you’ll be working with some of best programmers, designers and techies in the area!? Get ready to learn a ton!

You’ll work with your team until about supper time – and then it’s time for more food. Man, are you getting hungry just thinking about all the free food? I sure am. After supper you can put the finishing touches on your digital masterpiece and then we will gather around to see what you’ve created. You can also invite your friends and family – the more, the merrier!

When it’s all said and done, the staff and mentors at UIT will have a round table discussion about the awesome work you did and will be handing out prizes for best design, best idea, best functionality, who ate the most pizza….you get the idea!  

Last year, we had nine students participate in the hackathon! In two groups they built an app in which users could throw items at characters on the screen and a portal for a variety of games to be played online.

We are super excited to start accepting applications for this year’s hackathon. Click here to register. We can’t wait to create with you!

One of the great things about UIT is that everyone who teaches you has real-life experience in the industry. In a typical university, the professors are academics who have studied the fields they’re in for many years. For a lot of subjects, that model seems to work pretty well, as the professors know quite a bit about what they’re teaching. But for some subjects, that teaching model just seems wrong. For example, look at programming and business – the two core features of the UIT program.

I know I’d definitely rather learn programming from people who practice it every day as part of their job. And I know I’d want to learn how to run a business from people who have that experience of their own! That’s why we have mentors. Not only do we get the dynamic duo of Rob and Eric every class but we also have guests come in occasionally. This week we had two separate mentors come in.

First, we got to meet Gavin Uhma. He’s the founder of this program, and the ‘U’ in the name of it. We each pitched our chat apps for him briefly as well as showed him our demos. Personally, mine didn’t go as well as I’d hoped.  I kind of rushed through it. Part of it was because I was slightly nervous. Part of it was because I was sick as a dog (which contributed to the nervousness). After the presentation I mentioned to Eric how I felt about it. After talking with him, I agreed that it’s better to do a presentation while you’re sick, than to not do it at all.

The same week we also had Gab White come to UIT to do a workshop on design. Gab is a professional web developer/designer from Halifax. In the workshop, she gave everyone some valuable insights on how to make a web page not just visually appealing, but a good experience for the user. She also showed us how to use the mockup creator, Sketch. It’s a pretty cool program I must say!

I wasn’t sure how much the class would interest me, only because of the fact that I’m much more of a programmer than a designer. When I’m working on something that has a visual interface, design sometimes gets put on the backburner. However, I found the workshop really interesting, and Gab gave a great presentation. Surprisingly, it was relieving taking a break from coding for once, which was an unexpected feeling. And thanks to the presentation, it will be easier for me to get through the design side of programming, using Sketch. Also, it will help me out in the future if I have to collaborate with a designer. I’ll be able to know where they’re coming from and put myself in their shoes better!

I prefer design to code, like I probably said in the past. I’ve been playing with Photoshop for something like 5 years or so. I really enjoyed Gab’s workshop, because it was good to learn concepts I’ve only ever done in Photoshop, and Sketch seems much quicker and easier to work with. I still have Photoshop on both my computers, but I’ve been wireframing my SaaS in sketch, which so far I’ve been really enjoying.

Sketch is super simple and intuitive. With my Photoshop experience, it was no problem to pick up over the last week or so. Gab covered the basics of website wireframing, which was quite fun to learn. She also shared a spreadsheet with her design resources which is incredibly useful to have. I think we should get more of those!

In my opinion, it was a great idea to bring in a mentor to teach a whole new aspect of the class. I think it worked really well, and just looking around the class I can see people wireframing their apps and they look a lot better than the other stuff we’ve made so far. I’m really excited to see how everyone’s website will turn out. I’m glad we had someone come in who had a background in design and really knew what she was doing.

My SaaS is going to be implemented into my chat app, so I’ve been redesigning the login, chat and the market-thingy. It’s a place where you can pay tutors to come help you with homework or any math equations you may need to figure out. So far I’ve had no issues with Sketch at all, it’s been really fun to use. One thing though, I wish the magic wand tool worked better like Photoshop in Sketch, but it really sucks.

We started learning Angular this week too. Its looks pretty neat, and I’m pretty excited to get working with it on Mathboard.