No sleep? No problem.
That’s how University of Washington seniors Ryan Ewing, Alex Juarez and Bill Cauchois and freshman Nick Barnwell tackled the 24-hour, 14-team Facebook College Hackathon finals in the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Friday.
“It was pretty exciting. They put us in this big warehouse, a huge warehouse, with lots of toys and food,” said Ewing, an applied mathematics major. “We didn’t sleep. Some of the other teams took naps.”
Hackathons have become a key recruiting tool for several top tech companies around the country. For students, they’re a way to get noticed — and hopefully build something cool.
Ewing and his teammates boosted the social music app that earned them the top prize at a preliminary Facebook hackathon at UW in October. After the preliminary hackathon, Spunby.me let friends add songs to a party playlist from their mobile phones. After the finals, it let users stream music playing on one machine onto another machine and sync the playback on both. The app got the attention of Wired magazine, which quoted the UW team in its write-up of the hackathon Monday.
A team from Princeton — the only one composed mostly of women — beat out the competition at the finals with an application that makes style suggestions based on uploaded photos of outfits.
Like his teammates, Ewing would put a job at Facebook somewhere near the top of his wish list, though visiting the company’s headquarters gave him a dose of reality about one of the world’s most glorified tech companies.
“I had this crazy dream of what Facebook was like. Then I got down there and saw a bunch of people with computers on tables,” Ewing said. “All the people there are really smart, but I don’t idolize them as much as I used to.”
Next up for Ewing and his classmates: a Yahoo hackathon that company will host at UW in March.
As for Spunby.me, Ewing said the team is working on merging its two functionalities, cleaning up the interface and fixing a few bugs over winter break so they can push it out to students in the spring semester. Ewing imagines the app would be useful for syncing and collectively selecting music at college parties, which can take over multiple rooms at once.
“We don’t have plans to monetize it just yet,” he said. “We just want people to use it.”