Vodafone’s #AppAid Hackathon: Coding For a Cause (Guest Post)

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Corona developer, Steven Cooper, participated in Vodafone’s App Aid, a 48-hour hackathon centered around building apps for a common good. Steven and his star team used Corona SDK to develop a mobile solution for the Leukaemia Foundation, aimed at supporting cancer patients through their journey by capturing medical information, tracking upcoming appointments and providing information on treatment side effects.

Vodafone Australia’s App Aid hackathon set the bar high for developer events.

The Event

We had 48 hours to build and develop a mobile app for a charity, and we were able to select from a list of organizations to support. At the conclusion of the event, we were given five minutes to present our app and demo it to a panel of judges which included Guy Kawasaki.

The Cause

Our team chose to develop for the Leukaemia Foundation, as they were looking for a mobile solution to support their website. Here was their request:

“The Leukaemia Foundation would like to develop an app to support cancer patients through their cancer journey, especially those in more remote areas. The app will capture patients’ information, such as their physical and mental well-being which will be fed back to their care coordinator to monitor and intervene as required. It will also provide prompts to patients about upcoming appointments and provide information to support them through treatment side effects.”

Our Solution

An application with an encrypted json feed to a supporting site where users could review and update information, which would then update the data on the device. Mobile app users would also be able to feed updated app information back to the support site.

Our Experience 

Knowing who the charity was and being able to go in with a solution sounds a bit like cheating (right?), however it was harder than it seems. For starters, the description we received, when compared to the charity’s final requirements, weren’t quite the same. There were things they had work-shopped and thought of after the description had gone out, that they asked us to implement and create.

There were other groups in the competition that had completely changed scope. In fact, right up to the final door knock, many groups were changing scope and debating base platform functionality at 12am the day of launch.

The solution I already had in mind at the start of the competition was easily able to handle the change in requirements. The model was able to fit the wish list of “wouldn’t it be cool to haves” and still allow room for future expansion and development. There was one (scope creep) idea to include camera functionality that I was easily able to add in at the last minute.

All was going well until a rethink and scope test seven hours into the build, ended up leading to a change in direction. While the original solution was more packaged and flattened, we ended up switching the plan a bit to meet the updated requirements.

Armed with Redbull and an entire box of pizza, we began to redesign and rebuild for the updated requirements.

I coded all through the night and all the next day, sleeping for three hours the morning the app was due. In total, I was awake for an astonishing 44 hours straight! I was powered by an awesome team and loads of determination.

The build was finished at 5:47am the day of presentation. This meant that while many other teams were still trying to rush builds into production, I was off having a shower and breakfast.

The Coding

Using Corona SDK was my biggest advantage. Many of the teams were dealing with builds in native languages which meant rebuilding their apps in different languages, which presented all sorts of cross-platform functionality issues. From conversations I overheard, native device functionality was the topic of much debate.

I was the only developer in the hackathon building with Corona, while many of the other teams had multiple developers (one team even had developers working in shifts). We were able to deliver a working solution in 48 hours on multiple platforms, with just one developer (me!).

The Outcome

We didn’t win the competition, but we are very proud of our final product. We provided a solid solution for patients with blood cancers to engage with their doctors and health care professionals. There was a demand for this app quite some time ago, however, the Leukaemia Foundation didn’t have the resources to create a prototype and to build it.

The Leukaemia Foundation loved the app, from the mechanics to the flow to design. They’re now seeking funding to release it, and I’m happy to see it through.

My Reflections

Other than staying awake for 44 hours straight (an all time personal record), I learned a lot from this experience.

While the solution and technology were strong, we ultimately didn’t win because the presentation didn’t do enough to win over the judges. It’s always tough to get your message across in such a short time period. We only had five minutes to sell the app, and explain how we created a great solution. We really needed to win the judges over in the first minute to keep them hooked.


I’d like to thank Corona Labs for giving us a Corona SDK Pro license for the event and for supporting us throughout the hackathon. Of course, a special thanks goes out to the Leukaemia Foundation, for their unwavering support as well.

-Steven Cooper

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This entry has 4 replies

  1. David says:

    Steven, thanks for using Corona and writing the post. Sounds like a great time – even if you did spend 44 hours without sleeping!


  2. Wow. This hit home quite a bit. 6 weeks ago I was diagnosed with Leukemia and am currently going through chemo treatments. While in the hospital I actually thought about creating an app just like this one, mainly just an appointment and info on Leukemia. It’s great that the Leukemia Society is already on top of it and I hope your able to see it through. I’d love to help if you need to bounce any ideas around. gregory_hargis [@] yahoo.com

    And thanks to the awesome-ness of Corona, while in the hospital I spent tons of time coding for an app I’m working on. That’s how awesome Corona is! You can code from anywhere!

  3. David – it was heaps of fun (Corona just made it better), already looking for the next event.

    Gregory – Sorry to hear that, and thank you. Ive passed on your details to the Leukeamia foundation. Part of what kept me going through the night was the thought that someone could get some use out of the app to help especially knowing that patients will battle through much more than just lack of sleep.

  4. David says:

    Thanks guys. We are happy Corona can play a small role in this. Please let me know if I can help out in any way (david AT coronalabs).
    Good luck with everything Gregory.