Along with four other Cloudflare colleagues, I traveled to New Haven, CT last weekend to support 1,000+ college students from Yale and beyond at YHack hackathon.
Throughout the weekend-long event, student attendees were supported by mentors, workshops, entertaining performances, tons of food and caffeine breaks, and a lot of air-mattresses and sleeping bags. Their purpose was to create projects to solve real world problems and to learn and have fun in the process.
How Cloudflare contributed
Cloudflare sponsored YHack. Our team of five wanted to support, educate, and positively impact the experience and learning of these college students. Here are some ways we engaged with students.
Our team of five mentors from three different teams and two different Cloudflare locations (San Francisco and Austin) was available at the Cloudflare table or via Slack for almost every hour of the event. There were a few hours in the early morning when all of us were asleep, I'm sure, but we were available to help otherwise.
2. Providing challenges
Cloudflare submitted two challenges to the student attendees, encouraging them to protect and improve the performance of their projects and/or create an opportunity for exposure to 6 million+ potential users of their apps.
Challenge 1: Put Cloudflare in front of your hackathon project
Challenge 2. Make a Cloudflare App
Prizes were awarded to all teams which completed these challenges. Cloudflare awarded a total of ten teams for completing the challenges. The team which was judged to have created the best Cloudflare app won free admission to Cloudflare's 2018 Internet Summit as well as several swag items and introductions to Cloudflare teams offering internships next summer.
3. Distributing swag & cookies
Over 3,000 swag items (t-shirts, laptop stickers, and laptop camera covers) were distributed to almost every attendee. When the Cloudflare team noticed student attendees were going without snacks after dinner, I made a trip to a local grocery store and bought hundreds of cookies to distribute as well. After about an hour, none remained.
As with most any hackathon, costs for food, A/V, venue rental, and other expenses are considerable. Cloudflare decided to financially support YHack to help offset some of these costs and be sure student participants were able to attend, learn, and build meaningful projects without having to pay admission fees.
Results of the hackathon
In groups of up to four, students teamed up to create projects. There was no set project theme, so students could focus on subject areas they were most passionate about. Judging criteria were "practical and useful", "polish", "technical difficulty", and "creativity" and several sponsors, such as Intuit, Cloudflare, JetBlue, and Yale's Poynter Fellowship in Journalism submitted suggested challenges for teams to work on.
I saw a lot of cool projects that could help college students save money on food or other expenses, projects that could help identify fake news sources, and apps that would work great on Cloudflare Apps.
There were dozens of great completed projects by the end of the Hackathon. I'd like to highlight a few great ones which used Cloudflare best.
The Winner: TL;DR
Akrama Mirza, a second year student at University of Waterloo, created an app for Cloudflare Apps which allows a website owner to automatically generate a TL;DR summary of the content on their pages and place it anywhere on their site. This app could be used to give a TL;DR summary of a blog post, article, report, etc.
Here you can see how TL;DR would display on TechCrunch's site.
The TL;DR app won the Cloudflare challenge for "make a Cloudflare App." Akrama has been invited to attend Cloudflare's 2018 Internet Summit in San Francisco, as a result. I've also introduced him to some internal teams, so he may explore internship opportunities with Cloudflare next summer.
Read more about TL;DR on Akrama's Devpost page.
Other great projects which used Cloudflare
Of the completed projects which put Cloudflare in front of their projects, there were three I most wanted to feature.
"Bringing Wall Street to Main Street through an accessible trading and back-testing platform."
K2 is a comprehensive backtesting platform for currency data, specializing in cryptocurrency and offering users the opportunity to create trading algorithms and simulate them in real-time.
The K2 team sought to equalize the playing field by enabling the general public to develop and test trading strategies. Users may specify a trading interval, time frame, and currency symbol, and the K2 backend will visualize the cumulative returns and generate financial metrics.
Read more about K2 on the team's Devpost page or website.
Money Moves analyzes data about financial advisors and their attributes and uses machine's deep learning unsupervised algorithms to predict if certain financial advisors will most likely be beneficial or detrimental to an investor's financial standing. Ultimately, Money Moves will help investors select the best possible financial advisor in their region.
The Money Moves team liked that they could easily use Cloudflare to protect and improve the performance of their site. One of the team members, Muyiwa Olaniyan, already used Cloudflare to run his personal server at home, so the team decided to use Cloudflare, from the start.
Read more about Money Moves on the team's Devpost page or website.
"Smart Bitcoin Investing Chatbot"
When the Facebook messenger chatbot is asked when it is best to invest in Bitcoin, current market trends are observed and a Mad Invest's model predicts how likely it is for the price to go up or down. A conclusion as to when it would be a good time to invest or sell is drawn and delivered by message to users.
Moving forward, the team intends to improve their model's predictions by developing a way to analyze the Chinese market, which represents 70% of Bitcoin traffic.
When telling me about their experience using Cloudflare and how it saved them time, the team delivered my favorite quote from the whole weekend. “We spent half an hour setting up Let's Encrypt for the SSL and we realized we could just put Cloudflare in front of it.” Exactly.
Read more about Mad Invest on the team's Devpost page.
I was honored to be part of a team that supported so many awesome students in the development of their projects at YHack. I was pleased to hear many attendees had already heard of or used Cloudflare before and many teams interacted with Cloudflare to protect and improve the performance of their projects and develop new apps. I look forward to being involved many more events in 2018 as well.