Mobile Apps Reign at First-ever Lehigh Hack

The first Hackathon in the Lehigh Valley ended April 1st (no really, it did).   I was very pleased to be part of the team bringing this kind of event to my local community. We didn’t go out with a literal bang - much to the relief of our venue - but we had a great demo day Sunday. Yes, complete with quadcopters.

As it was the first event of its kind we opened with the notion that in contrast to the media’s use of the term ‘hacker’, at these events, it’s about the good kind of hackers.

That concept was echoed by the demos. Not just quality demos, but a lot of projects that try to accomplishing something of value.

Here’s a rundown of the teams at LVHack 2012 - a sample of what can be built in a weekend using the wide range of platforms available today.

First place went to Autistic Touch (@jasonlotito@mandreano, @jealousrepublic, @KreateMarket), a mobile application designed to provide a visual and physical way for autistic children to communicate. The first version was built as a mobile web application, and adding a bit of polish Saturday night resulted in a PhoneGap based application for the demo Sunday. Just a few taps on photos of mom or dad and related activities, and an SMS is sent to the parent with a simple message: “Mom, I’m hungry”.

Future plans include communication both ways, allowing the parents to reply back with a predetermined image for the child.

Autistic Touch will be bringing their next idea to the Philadelphia Startup Weekend this weekend, I won’t spoil their pitch, but they’ll be expanding the concept to a much wider market with a huge potential.

The first and second place teams also tied for crowd favorite - an indicator that our judges were dead on with their picks - so a quick round of rock, paper, scissors awarded crowd favorite, and second place to group of college students (@songsaboutjade, @NataliaDeJesusM, @JustersSharea) from Cedar Crest.

Although not developers themselves, they enlisted the help of a few hackers - including one of the founders of CloudMine to build an SMS driven application that replies to an address with the location of the nearest bus stop. Go ahead, try it: 1-786-623-4105

Saturday morning I was surprised to hear one of the communication majors say, ‘we need to get an API key from walkscore’, but I guess that’s what happens when you start hanging out at hackathons.

Rounding out the top tier of winners was Reportal Moble (@schmidtc, @ChristianBirch) a mobile application designed to simplify water related data collection for municipalities. Kind of like TurboTax for the Clean Water Act, it will automate the reporting process for local government.

The first set of functionality is already in the app store - a simple application to find the county of your current location (or a location you specify).

But those three teams were just the start, one team build a book swapping site - eHarmony for textbooks, there was a tamagotchi for energy usage - a virtual pet that reacted to energy consumption, a mobile application for local events, a Kinect controlled virtual avatar - destined for medical training, a restaurant recommendation system based entirely on your preference between various images, and one of our sponsors took the weekend to build a DropBox Clone - complete with better search - on their own Platform.

Indeed, if you’re looking for the ‘good’ kind of hacker, or just want to get a feel for what can be built, just find a local hackathon. Or host one - that works too. I can't wait for next year.

Be sure to read the next Mashups article: Location Mashups using Facebook, Foursquare and Google Maps