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I spent a good chunk of last Friday and Saturday at Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone (DMZ), an incubator for Ryerson students and alumni who want to get their first taste of tech entrepreneurship. I was there – along with some help from RedBit Development and ObjectSharp -- to help out at a Windows Phone 7 Code-a-thon, where students from all over the greater Toronto area were challenged to think up and build a Windows Phone 7 app in a mere 24 hours.

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The event started at noon last Friday with me doing a quick presentation on Windows Phone development, sending the students to App Hub, explaining the Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone IDE and walking them through a very quick “Hello, World!” example. After that, it was time to unleash them on the machines.

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The students split up into teams. Some worked solo, while others formed groups. We provided technical help, snacks and energy drinks, the students took all that and started converting it into software. A good number of them stayed in the DMZ overnight, working away on their code. I left at around 10 p.m. and returned 12 hours later to find them still hard at work.

While walking around, I asked the students about their programming experience. Some had worked with C# before, but many hadn’t. Still, they were able to get up to speed fairly quickly, and I and the other advisors were able to quickly able to resolve most of the problems they brought to us. I don’t think you could get up and running that quickly if you were doing this in Objective-C.

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At about 2:00 p.m., we started calling in each team to show us their app. We were pretty impressed by both their creativity as well as their progress; in a mere 24 hours, the teams had come up with imaginative app ideas and fairly complete applications. Some teams finished early and decided to create (and submit) a second application!

I saw a lot of great apps (over a dozen were submitted in the end), but we had to narrow it down to a single winner, and that winner was Andrei Borodin, who wrote a Phone version of the Russian card game Durak (“Fool”), which he enhanced by adding a side-betting system. As the winner, we gave Andrei a brand new Samsung Focus Windows Phone 7 device, which we hope he’ll use to continue developing Windows Phone 7 apps. We also gave the DMZ their very own Samsung Focus so that other students and alumni there can build apps.

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This was the second student Code-a-Thon we’ve held for Windows Phone 7, and judging from the success, I can expect to see (and help out at) a few more this year. Hopefully, these students will continue to explore Windows Phone 7 development and put out some great apps!

The event was covered by the Ryerson University student paper the Eyeopener, and you can check out the article here.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.