Last week I’ve been in working in one of the most amazing events for developers in the world: Microsoft’s Build Conference, in Redmond, Washington. I had the honor to participate as a mentor of the event’s Hackathon; a competition where developers from around the world gathered in groups of at most 5 people and built apps in Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Windows Azure from scratch in only 3 days. I’ve seen, together with other mentors from other latitudes of Microsoft, a set of amazing products, services and games designed, developed, tested and demoed in a record time.

The participants not only spent their time developing the apps, but also getting advice from specialists and attending the conference sessions that covered many aspects of the technologies they were working on. Some of them kept on working during at those sessions, and for instance one of the teams built their entire WP8 integration with Windows Azure Mobile Services while learning it at that session!

The result? Almost 40 apps submitted by the teams and it was really impressive to see, while evaluating them all, the amazing products these engineers, devs, enthusiast, hobbiests, designers and hackers came up with: an ancient China chess game, a hide-and-seek Windows Phone version, a location service for lost Windows 8 devices, a voice-commanded photo camera, among others.

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Since, apart from being a great learning experience it was a competition, let me hare the 1st places of the 3 categories:

  • Windows 8: “QBranch”. Have you ever had to wait for your turn in a restaurant or similar shop? Well, this team of 5 who didn’t know each other until the Hackaton pulled out a Windows 8 application that manages those queues but also, through the use of NFC or QR codes, lets customers get their number in the queue and when their table is ready, notifies them via push notifications to their Windows Phone. Brilliant! Arif Shafique, one of the Windows Phone Technical Evangelist in Norway was their mentor….what a pleasure!
  • Windows Phone: “Social Squares”. This game takes your contacts from Facebook and arranges 9 of them in a 3x3 grid similar to the Hollywood Squares TV show and challenges you with questions about each one of them to test how much do you know them, presenting options gathered from all your contacts. “What is Joe’s bio?”, “When is Laura’s Bday?...The game includes a challenge mode that uses NFC and lets you know how much you really know your friends. It also uses Windows Azure Mobile Services to submit questions to the community of players and it has a more-than-appealing UI. I had the privilege to mentor this team of 2 (Brock Dodgson and Ken Sutcliffe), who initially had 5 ideas and we narrowed down the list to this game.
  • Windows Azure: “CrowdSource Memories” allows friends and family of a couple getting married to let them know their thoughts, messages and pictures of the wedding through a fast and fluid Windows 8 app and the use of Windows Azure Mobile Services. It gathers them all in a mashap that the couple and friends can enjoy for a lifetime.

As part of the prizes, these 3 winners of the 1st place in each category, apart from getting $ 2.5K to split among them, got the chance to share their apps live in Channel9 to the world! I had the pleasure to join them in the interview:

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It was a great experience and I’d like to thank Drew Robbins and Dan Fernandez and team for the invitation and coordination, but also for the great energy in that gigantic room during these days!