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Hack for Western Mass in Springfield: Day One

The 2015 Hack for Western Mass was held at the UMass Center at Springfield in Tower Square Mall in Springfield Massachusetts.

UMass Center in Town Square

Springfield has struggled economically due to the collapse in US manufacturing ultimately going bankrupt. More recently the city emerged from crisis and is experiencing a renaissance of economic development.


I think some participants were surprised to see a different side of Springfield than they'd seen before. I certainly was.

The UMass Center at Springfield was a fantastic partner for the hackathon. Dan Montagna, Scott Poulin, and Patryk Glosowitz went out of their way to enable us to get the most out of the facility and its resources. They even let us take over their digital signage to run a slideshow thanking our sponsors.

The organizers and volunteers came in the night before to get organized, discuss how to set up the space, and do an orientation on using slack for messaging during the hackathon.

Bram Rockin' the Slack

Returning participants brought great energy. The hackathon is really starting to build a strong sense of community among the participants.

I had originally thought I would be working behind the registration table but, on the last evening, the other organizers encouraged me to conduct the opening ceremony. I really felt honored to be the one welcoming everyone and introducing our guests.

After my opening remarks, we had a video from Mayor Sarno, a brief welcome to the facilty by Dan Montagna, and a keynote by Delcie Bean. We had some technical difficulties with the video by Mayor Sarno, but otherwise everything came off great.

Nick Ring from Amherst Media filmed the opening ceremony and then wandered round getting clips of the teams at work. Our goal is to offer a summary video presentation and, perhaps even more importantly, a short promo piece that we can use next year to help recruit organizers, sponsors, and participants.

We had a great set of challenges this year. I'm always amazed just to hear about all of the interesting non-profit initiatives that are happening in the region.

Most of the pitches were made by just one or two people, but Girls Inc always fields a whole team.

It's always interesting to see how current trends in technology play out in the kinds of challenges that get brought forward. Last year, the theme was location-enabled mobile apps. This year…

We provided some guidelines to participants about forming effective teams that using Agile development techniques.

Team Formation

We also provided a brief summary of the Code of Conduct using the slides that Molly McLeod had developed for the first hackathon that always generate a lot of enthusiasm.

Once the challenges had been issued and the teams had formed, the code sprints began. Last, year we were rather crowded together, but this year the UMass Center provided ample space for groups to organize into small breakout rooms, in classrooms, and a beautiful lounge.

While the sprints were happening, there was a series of other workshops. For young people, we had a workshop on Scratch on Saturday with Minecraft planned for Sunday.

Scratch Presentations

Christine Olson ran a Makerspace activity for Makers at Amherst Media. She's been having participants make a quilt to show at the National Maker Faire next weekend.

But students also could engage in a bunch of other activities including making Rube Goldberg machines.

In mid-afternoon, Ali Cook from Ohm Style Living led the hackathon in a movement break.

Not everyone is a fan of yoga.

As always, we had spared no expense to get great food for the hackathon, with lunch from Hot Table.

Lunch from Hot Table

And a fantastic dinner from Nadims..

It's always been clear that the contributions by sponsors are most appreciated when people have good food after a long day of coding.

On Sunday, we're wrapping up and building presentations for lunch time. It's been a fantastically productive weekend with great folks and great community.

Updated: Read about Day Two.