Blog / Unboxed Hackathon - what a difference a day makes

Chris Holmes
October 14, 2016

At Unboxed, one of the ways we are encouraged to grow and enhance our personal development is through innovation days. We are given a lot of freedom to choose what we do with them - whether that be learning a new technology, working on something open source, attending conferences or writing blog posts.

Last week, a group of the developers got together to take an innovation day collectively. We organised a Hackathon. The idea behind this was to provide the opportunity for us to work together outside of our project teams, learn new things and to have fun doing it. We had a couple of lunches in advance - where we discussed project ideas and what each of us wanted to get out of the day - and with that we were ready to go.

On the day we headed down to Campus London for a change of scenery and arrived early to secure an area big enough for us all to work comfortably. Once settled we split into two teams, the first was made up of Charlie, Andrew and Crystal who decided to work on “Marauders Map” - a zone based location mobile app that shows where the team is during office hours, co-locating with a client, researching with users, in the office or at the park for lunch etc. The second team was made up of Paula, Tom, Neil, Jack and myself. We decided to build “Unboxed Dash” - a dashboard for our office with various integrations including weather, tweets, Slack, who’s on holiday, pull requests and our latest track of the week.

Maurauders Map

From Crystal:
Charlie, Andrew and I started by investigating a couple of frameworks for building native mobile apps quickly, so that we could get a simple app running which broadcasted its location often. Charlie looked into using Significant Location Changes in Swift, Andrew looked into React Native, and I looked into NativeScript. Each one had their merits, but with a limited amount we went went whatever we got up quickest! By the end of the day, we’d created a small app on an iPhone, and a server hosted on Heroku to accept locations and plot them on a map. All in all a productive day!

Maurauders Map

Our team started with a quick planning session, where we put down all of our ideas for integrations and each picked which ones we might like to tackle first. We chose to use the dashing framework as we felt this would enable us to work on different components easily and would get us up and running quickly. After a read through of the documentation, we created the app and pushed it straight to Heroku and got going on the individual integrations. We were alternating between working in pairs and independently throughout the day with lots of communication between us all and managed to complete eight integrations in total. More importantly, we worked really well as a team, learnt new things and had a great day out.

Unboxed Dash

With the day proving to be a great success, we’re already planning the next one!