The eMerge Americas + Ironhack Hackathon 2016

Remember those all-nighters from college? If there were $10,000 up for grabs, would you multiply that by 3 and spend 24 hours working on a single project? That’s what nearly 50 teams of 200 coders did this weekend at our hackathon in partnership with eMerge Americas sponsored by Facebook, Microsoft, Visaand BBVA Compass. Starting at 9 AM on Saturday, a group of crazy nerds passionate coders dedicated 24 hours to building an app completely from scratch. This was the third annual hackathon hosted at the Idea Center at Miami Dade College.

Hackathons are intense project collaborations between software developers, designers, entrepreneurs, & engineers. There’s usually a theme that participants follow but this year they were given complete freedom to build anything they wanted.

The only requirement to qualify for the top 3 spots was that they use one of the two APIs presented by Visa, either Visa Direct or Visa Consumer Transaction Controls. Final presentations were evaluated by a comprehensive set of guidelines that included implementation of the app, technical complexity, innovation, user experience and communication.

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The hacking began on Saturday morning and the buzz stayed strong for longer than the average person can stare at a computer screen. Each team claimed its own table, slowly transforming the barren space into individual abodes filled to the brim with candy wrappers, empty cans of Monster, coffee that was once hot, hundreds of juice boxes and, of course, laptops. Before everyone knew it, it was sixteen hours and 320 slices of pizza later. But developers are relentless, and when exhaustion hits they know it’s time to pull out all the stops.

Participants were allowed to leave the campus throughout the event, as long as all the coding was done on the premises. So as dawn approached, more and more seats emptied as people left to get more snacks or to bring back Cuban coffee (turns out that American coffee just doesn’t have the same effect on Miami developers).

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There was one lady, however, who didn’t sleep a wink or even write a single line of code. She was the proud mom of Bryan Padron, a fifteen-year-old participant on team AllowPay. It was his (and her) third consecutive eMerge Hackathon. “This is his passion,” she told us, “I’m perfectly happy being here with him and not sleeping. People need that support.”

Like Bryan, passion is what drove every attendee to sign up for this hackathon. There were software engineers, front and back-end developers, senior and novice developers, product designers, graphic designers and even a group of middle schoolers all sitting within inches of their biggest support system, making up 47 teams vying for that winning spot.

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Teams were split into three sections on Sunday for their final presentations. The judges this year were Daniel Cane, CEO of Modernizing Medicine, Allen Cueli, Sr. Business Leader from Visa, Allison Cammack, client partner atKairos, Dulio Matos, Solutions Engineer from Facebook and Humberto Alexander Lee, CTO of Tesser Health. Each team had 3 minutes to pitch their idea to the judges and present a live demo of their app. Judges narrowed the contestants down to 9 teams for a final round of presentations, this time with a Q & A session.

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Team “Azi” (french slang for “let’s go!”) took third place with their allocating money app, Split. It’s meant to solve the issue of splitting payments directly with friends. Split allows for instant money requests at checkout (so you don’t have to remind your friends to pay you back) and a transaction back to your account in a matter of minutes. They wanted to make everything as simple asUber’s splitting fare feature. Benedicte Gouy, project manager of branding and design for “Azi”, said her team did a lot of brainstorming on the daily problems she and her friends face. “We travel a lot and we split a lot of payments” she said, “we wanted to make those transactions easier.”

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Second place went to Team “Plum Cash,” a savings and allowance app that teaches kid basic finance. It links the parent’s credit card to send funds to their child’s prepaid card and gives parents full transparency and control of their child’s transactions. When we asked them what piece of advice they would give to someone participating in a hackathon for the first time David Hartmann, their iOS developer and team lead, didn’t hesitate, “Get sleep the night before. We didn’t.” He also strongly advises everyone to attend the hackathon’s prep session/webinar beforehand to avoid wasting valuable hackathon time planning or installing things last minute.

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The first place winner of this year’s hackathon and the $10,000 cash prize fromBBVA was team “Two Brothers and an Oscar.” This team of five created Zimple, an app that strives to educate the approximate 56 million financially illiterate people in the U.S., specifically those under the age of 18. It does this through three main subjects: earnings, savings and spendings. Zimple allows parents to give their children allowances and assign them chores, and children are able to set financial goals for themselves, like saving money for an Xbox using their savings account. Their biggest advice for a hackathon first-timer was to make sure you have a diversified team. “There’s front-end, a back-end, design, infrastructure, data, analysis–there are all these things you have to pay attention to in order to get ready for the big moment,” so it’s important to have members who have different strengths for a well-rounded team.

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We owe the success of this year’s hackathon to eMerge America’s amazing team, our sponsors over at Facebook, Microsoft, Visa, and BBVA Compass, our dedicated and out-of-their-minds attendees and of course the pizza delivery company who brought us 40 boxes of pizza to feed our hungry coders at 1 AM. We’re excited to see how tech unfolds in Miami over the next year with the help of the brilliant talent we had the pleasure to host.

See you in 2017!

This year’s 9 team finalists were:

FVI–Aaron Niskin, Victor Moreno

GoldPlay–Zef Gonzalez, Adams Fontin, Yair Szarf, Evertt Gilmore

Plum Cash–David Hartmann, Cristina Escalante, Brian Wood, Ryan Pineo, Asia Pressley

Thriftee–Javier Salido, Carmelo Colon, Robert Hernandez, Micah Resnick, Quyen Tran

Azi– Gilles Yvetot, Melvin Moustaid, Benedicte Gouy, Antoine Forest

Two Brothers and an Oscar–Joshua Martinez, Peter Martinez, Charlie Ramos, Miguel Ramos, Oscar Batlle

WePay–David Llaca, Zachary Gittelman, Daniel Munoz, Peter, Kyle Pierce

Team50–Tatiana Paul, Marlise Urscheler, Daniel Chang, Dylan Tackoor

Mams–Noe Miniel, Nayeli Estevez, Alain Colas, Julian Buitrago, Carlos Sanchez


Third place–Team Azi

Second place–Plum Cash

First place–Two Brothers and an Oscar

Featured image via: Al Delcy

Images provided by: David Sutta and >Al Delcy