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LeedsHack 2014

4 August 2014 No Comment

Quite unexpectedly, I was able to get to LeedsHack again this year having missed it for the last two! I say “unexpectedly”, because it was on 2-3 Aug 2014 which was one of my very rare vacant weekends, being sandwiched between working in Switzerland at the end of July and going on holiday to Portugal in the middle of August! I knew LeedsHack was happening, but I had the feeling that a free weekend at home in London was what I needed when my life involves a bit too much travelling anyway! However, one of my friends made a last minute decision to go, and so I did too, luckily tickets were still available, and hence we travelled up together.

Leeds City Museum were the splendid hosts. They gave us the space and allowed us to work through the night! The staff were truly helpful and sincere and I was amazed at the constant, good natured discussion with the security team, the museum guides and the catering staff, who all took it in their stride. It’s not often a cultural icon plays host to 75 geeks trying to build crazy software hacks and hardware hacks in a 24 hour competition.

1101000122_199199_20140804_1823_leedshack_001Heading upstairs just before the presentations start

The idea of a HackDay (or weekend) is to try and satisfy one of The Challenges and come up with a new innovative product within a set timeframe. This was a new concept for some of the youngsters there and it was impressive to see @BreezeLeeds putting in a lot of time and effort to supporting the youth community and helping them fit in with the older geeks.

My creative juices were not flowing on the Saturday and by the time the clock started counting down (from Saturday noon to Sunday noon) I was still unable to come up with a hack. So, I ended up helping some of the kids learn to code. My knowledge is limited and my programming language of choice is PHP. That allowed a couple of kids and me to fire up UniServer (which  @BreezeLeeds had already installed on their laptops – yay) and to use Notepad++ to start some elementary coding. We may not have been able to do much in those 24 hours, but what we did do (and what I am always keen to do) is give kids some exposure to coding languages and tools that we use in the real world.

Yes, there were some teams working with Scratch, and with Python, and yes, Python is a fully fledged language, but PHP is ubiquitous. I see it everywhere (unlike Python) and it’s the fourth most common language if you accept this chart of Github Repos.

1101000122_199199_20140804_1823_leedshack_002MeccaDuinoHackBotDiggerCraneOfDeath – photo @TyrellMobile

One of the most encouraging things I saw over the weekend, was the attention devoted to hardware hacks, as well as software. One group of kids used an Arduino and some Meccano to build a BlueTooth driven robot. That’s the most memorable thing for me – the adorably named MeccaDuinoHackBotDiggerCraneOfDeath.

LeedsHack is the brain child of Dom Hodgson and his unswerving devotion to “making it fun” has a lasting impact on everyone! It was great!

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