Every great idea starts somewhere.

Over the weekend, Communitech ran its first hackathon, Waterloo Hacks, out of Velocity Start, a new 6,000-square-foot space on the University of Waterloo Campus.

More than 570 students from the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University applied, with the top 165 selected to participate in the 48-hour hackathon, with a goose called Charlie as a mascot.

On Friday night, students piled into buses and headed to the Communitech Hub in downtown Kitchener for opening ceremonies.

Opening the night was the Teds Talk, which featured local entrepreneurs Ted Livingston, CEO of Kik Interactive, and Ted Hastings, President of Perk, covering everything from building a startup to why they chose to do it in Waterloo. 

Students also had the opportunity to meet with local tech companies and Communitech’s innovation partners before heading back to UW’s campus to set up shop for the weekend.

For the next two days, students hacked away with the help of expert mentors from local tech companies and a Smörgåsbord of food, including late-night meals of McDonald’s, Fat Bastard Burritos and pizza.  And other meals such as sushi, quiche, french toast, rice bowls and an Indian buffet made for a well-rounded weekend.

To break up the day on Saturday, students had the chance to attend learning sessions with Google, Thomson Reuters, SAP and Manulife RED Lab.

By Sunday morning, 25 teams submitted and pitched a project, with 10 making it to the final round.

Judging was left in the capable hands of Wes Worsfold, Associate Director of Velocity; April Blaylock, Senior Engineer at Aeryon Labs; and Liam Horne, co-Founder of Hack the North and CTO of PiinPoint.

The top three teams, chosen for their creativity, innovation and app completion, were:

  • Group 536, who created the Myo Muse, an app that changes the tempo of a song to match your running speed.
  • Shakespeare NLP, which developed a natural language processing app to unify various programming languages used by software developers.
  • Memble, which built a Pebble watch app that can be used by caregivers to track and support Alzheimer’s patients.

Initially, winners Group 536 started out creating a Pebble app, but switched to Myo one day into the event. (Both the Pebble and the Myo were developed by uWaterloo graduates).

“We worked on the project with all sorts of resources available,” said Asad Saeeduddin, a uWaterloo student. “There were mentors coming by all the time to help us out.”

Group 356 also had to overcome a diverse set of skills. “None of us can work on the same code base,” Saeeduddin said, adding that team members had to stitch their work together into the one app.

Overall, the team was happy with the results. “I would definitely like to keep this an open source project and hack on it in that capacity, and maybe if it becomes a product that would be cool too,” Saeeduddin said.

Aside for bragging rights, Saeeduddin and the rest of Group 356 each get to select a device valued up to $750 as their prize.

For Communitech’s Andrea Gilbrook, Talent Program Manager, the weekend was a success.

“We wanted to get students excited about the technology and innovation happening in Waterloo Region, and highlight it as a place they might be interested in doing a co-op term or working after graduation.”

Gilbrook said “It’s all about exposing students to the choices that are here.”

The paths taken by Livingston and Hastings, but also those pursued by bigger companies like Manulife and Thomson Reuters, provided challenges for the weekend.

And Gilbrook promises that this is just the beginning.

“We know we have a great community and compelling opportunities for students and new grads,” she said.

“And we’re excited with the response we’re getting from students across Canada with our new new student programming, like Code to Win, After School and Waterloo Hacks, which brings some of those stories to campuses to help extend the message and get more exposure for the region.”

For more photos from the weekend, head over to our Facbook page.

Photo (From left): Steven Xu, Alya Bercui, Wes Worsfold, Dadi Zhang, Asad Saeeduddin, April Blaylock and Liam Horne.

About The Author

Trish Crompton
Digital Journalist/Social Media Manager

Trish Crompton brings her passion for technology and digital media expertise to Communitech's External Relations team. Trish was born in Sydney, Australia and has called Waterloo Region home since 2008. She is a marketing graduate of Conestoga College.