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My team brainstorming an idea for our “Juice Bowl” app.

SEATTLE — Ready, set, hack.

Just 12 hours after kickoff and we’re well underway at Sports Hack Day. I’m here at the HUB Seattle documenting my first-ever hackathon experience and am already realizing what a melting pot of wicked smart ideas these things are.

We got started Friday night with a keynote from Vantage CTO Cameron Tangney and sponsor demos showing off some cool sports applications free to use this weekend.

Then things really got started: It was time to separate the 100 people here into five-person teams. 

The “draft-process” was simple. One by one, hackers came up to the podium and pitched ideas. Afterward, they stood around the room with their ideas on post-it notes and participants were free to flock to their favorite pitch. 

Here are some of the awesome ideas:

  • An app that tells you what TV channel is showing the most-exciting live event 
  • A game for 4-to-8 players that merges fantasy baseball and Monopoly
  • An app for real-time stadium food delivery service
  • An app to easily watch Super Bowl ads with a voting system
  • A fact-check app for what sports analysts are saying on TV
  • An app to keep you from finding out results from a game you’ve recorded and want watch at a later time
  • An app that looks at how Tweets affect outcomes of games
  • An app that shows why the Madden curse is a myth
  • An app for youth sports data

But the idea that I liked best came from Aaron Schwartz, who made his way here from Olympia. Schwartz just read the latest from ESPN’s Bill Simmons on performance-enhancing drugs. From the piece:

Did I Google photos of Peterson’s Oklahoma head and compare them to his Minnesota head? I did. And felt like a loser the entire time. Until I mentioned it to a buddy.

“Oh, I’ve done that,” he said. “Everyone does that. That should just be a website. Before/after photos of athlete heads. They should all be in one place.”

And I found myself nodding. That’s a great idea for a website. He’s right.

Our app, “Juice Bowl,” is a Facemash-esque app to see how much NFL players’ head sizes have changed.

And that’s exactly what Schwartz pitched: An app that shows side-by-side comparisons of NFL players now versus when they were in college. Why? To see how much their head sizes have grown, one telling sign of a performance enhancing drug user.

The idea is essentially a model of “Hot or Not,” and similar to the app Mark Zuckerberg created back at Harvard called Facemash. But instead of determining who is better-looking, this is for NFL players who may or may not have juiced up during their careers.

I was upfront with Schwartz and told him I had no programming experience, but could still help out with some research, design and sports knowledge. Three others — Dan, Aaron and Juan — with coding and UX experience all loved the idea, too, and we were ready to rumble.

We spent 45 minutes checking out photos online and seeing if the idea was actually legit. We eventually decided that people could use this app during a live game and we could have “PED or not” voting after every play.

I wrote yesterday how I was both excited and nervous for this event. Surrounded by highly-skilled, highly-knowledgeable developers and computer-wizards, I’m definitely out of my comfort zone here.

But my group has been great. I thought allowing a writing nut to join the team with no coding experience was good enough, but they’ve been really good about including me into every discussion and even teaching me some hacker-esque skills along the way.

Mapping out our app on paper.

It’s been great watching this team already work well together. None of us knew each other 12 hours ago, but things are clicking. It’s pretty neat to see this get off the ground so quickly. I guess that’s what happens when you get people together who share the same passion of making some kickass apps.

Today I’m tracking down all the old photos of players on Baltimore and San Francisco, the two teams battling in tomorrow’s Super Bowl. Everyone else is busy writing code, tracking down APIs and designing the “Juice Bowl” app (that’s a tentative name).

Check back later today for an update. Thanks for reading.

Previously on GeekWire: Join me this weekend for my first-ever hackathon experience 

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