From 10am to 6:25pm on Sunday, December 5, 2010 I spent my time on Boston University Campus—in CAS—ignoring my homework and hacking away at a good cause.
When I first walked into the room I was unsure what was going on. I signed in, got myself some much needed coffee and settled down with my laptop, ready for whatever was to come next. To be honest, I had no intent of going the previous day, because I felt that I just had too much homework to waste 8 hours hacking away. However, I decided to go for a few hours, I ended up staying the whole time.
Once the event got rolling we broke up into small groups and decided what projects to work on. One person worked on the Google People Finder application—which seemed like it would have been cool to work on—and most of the people there worked on the Open Data project, because it was not code intensive. My friends and a few stragglers latched on to the HeightCatcher Android application.
The concept behind HeightCatcher is to be able to measure the height of a baby using a photo on a mobile phone. We chose Android as our development platform, because it is all open source. There were some issues with the actual how to, but we tried anyway. None of the people in the group worked on Android development before and most of us were rusty on our Java, but we sat there hacking away.
My job was to get the input from the user, do the distance calculations and compare the reference object with the baby to give a measurement. I achieved this after a lot of hacking around, but it was far from an elegant solution. We packed this all up onto dropbox (our rudimentary version control) and went and gave our demo of what we accomplished today. A day later I found out that the guys in Birmingham, UK finished the app… or rather started it a little before us and came out of it with a finished product. It was fun to try to make the HeightCatcher, but I am glad that it was made, because it is an application which has tons of application in disaster control and 3rd world countries!
Random Hacks of Kindness was definitely a good experience! Do it when it comes to your area.