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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.