I have a bit of catching up to do, but so as not to get even further into the past, let’s start with the most recent event: the Summer of Tech Hackfest on 31 August 2013.

Summer of Tech is a great opportunity for students to find internships in Wellington tech companies. We’ve been participating for a number of years now and usually have at least one intern during the summer. This year’s Hackfest was the third after 2010 and 2011.

The 2010 Hackfest was the only one I had attended before Saturday as part of Summer of Tech. As I liked the atmosphere and watching the students create an application over the course of a day, I wanted to check out this year’s Hackfest again to see some of the internship applicants up close. The Hackfest is a fantastic opportunity to get to know how the students are working, how well they work in a team, and what stern stuff they are made off because the Hackfest was an endurance event of a little over 8 hours programming straight, presentation time and a bit of chilling out.

Altogether 17 students participated and had formed 4 groups the day before when they decided what they wanted to do during the Hackfest. Their task was to connect to an API – either TradeMe, Xero or Powershop – and create something useful. Mentors helped the students throughout the day with various tricky issues. OAuth caused some to almost lose their hair, but in the end, OAuth was cracked and the students could continue on their path. At other times, help with a new programming language was required and Ruby experts were on hand to help there. Also having developers from the companies whose APIs were used was handy because they knew how to get the most out of them and could assist with a few difficult bits and pieces.

At the end of the day, all four groups could present their application to the captivated audience of judges who asked tough questions as well as fellow Hackfest participants and some people who had come out of interest. The students could also win surprise prizes. Here are the teams.

The PowerRangers won first prize because the judges acknowledged the difficulty of their project in getting access to the data, doing heaps of math and generally thinking that people would be interested in acquiring the application. The PowerRangers created an application that would allow users to monitor their software’s power consumption.

Second prize was taken by the PowerDroids. They created an Android app to display how much power they have consumed and how much they still have available in their Powershop account. In the future, users of the app would also be able to purchase more power directly from their phones.

The third prize was split between emedart and Xero in. emedart connected to the TradeMe API to show where across New Zealand sellers were selling a certain item. You could narrow down by category and also search by keyword finding out where most cars, cats or kitchen appliances for example were sold. Xero in created a visual map of purchases of a user across the country based on the information entered into Xero.

All teams did a great job creating an application in just one day which was not an easy feat. Most of the students learned a new programming language, worked with APIs for the first time and also had a great experience collaborating in teams.

I’m looking forward to the next event for us, the “Meet and Greet” when we’ll see all potential Summer of Tech students and can talk to them, but then also need to make the tough decision of who to interview further for a summer internship.

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