<h2>PEBBLE ROCKS BOULDER – 5 BITS</h2>
11 September 2015
Our first steps down the red brick paved Pearl St in downtown Boulder Colorado set the tone for the weekend. The streets were bustling with activity. Street musicians were setting up their stage. Students and locals alike were just getting started with their Friday evening, funneling into the many restaurants and bars that lined the street. We had a different target, Galvanize-Boulder, the co-working space that was the venue of Pebble’s first hardware hackathon, Pebble Rocks Boulder. This would prove to be one of the most successful and worthwhile events we’ve had the pleasure of attending. Here are 5 ideas on what made Pebble Rocks Boulder great.
Eyes on the Prize
Two of the broad goals of why we attend hackathons has always been to evangelize our platform and to interact with developers to improve our tools, documentation and APIs. In this case, our goal was more targeted, to unveil the smartstrap APIs to the public for the first time. A hackathon was the perfect opportunity to see first hand how developers interact with the APIs and what experiences they had in mind for smartstraps. All of this would go towards improving our platform to better empower developers to create new smartstraps.
Keep It Simple
With this goal in mind, Viget helped us to plan out a schedule of events. We’ve sponsored dozens of hackathons in my time at Pebble; from smaller engagements of ~120 students to stadium filled events with over 2000 hackers. At Pebble Rocks Boulder, we made it more intimate; 25 teams of 3–4 members each and we kept it simple. Nerf gun fights didn’t erupt at midnight, and we didn’t have any rap battles. But we did have a group of developers with a diverse set of backgrounds that were condusive to a productive, creative environment.
Having a diverse group of hackers catalyzed great discussion and sharing of ideas. We invited iOS developers, networking engineers, electrical engineers, designers and more. They came from all across the US from places like Portland, New York and Texas.
A team from Fitpay brought their expertise in the world of secure, contactless payments. Over the course of the weekend, they integrated their APIs with Pebble, creating the first contactless payment system on Pebble! Another team of students and graduates from the Turing School brought the biking culture of Boulder to play by developing a dock for the Pebble. This dock provided turn-by-turn navigation and automatic turn signals to keep bikers safer. A team of survivalists created a SurvivalStrap, with an integrated UHF transmitter for the stranded hiker. Two developers who had little hardware experience prior were able to integrate a GPS module and SD storage to create a untethered solution for a fitness/run tracker, complete with music playback. Tackmobile paired the Pebble platform with littleBits to create a convenient way to prototype smartstrap ideas.
We couldn’t possibly list all 23 hacks. You can see the complete, open-sourced projects on Hackster.io.
Get Out There, and Stay Up
Often times, we see sponsors show up, give a talk and then retire for the evening. We take a different approach at Pebble. Some of the craziest ideas manifest themselves at 2AM. Even more, we make the rounds, see everyone’s progress, and do what we can to push ahead and make progress. As activity dies down and you only hear a few solitary taps of the keyboard here and there, we find more one on one time with certain people, or we might find some inspiration for ourselves. After all, a hackathon is all about pushing ourselves to create something new in unfamiliar environments and circumstances. Why not join in ourselves?
All Good Things Come to an End
The morning after the event, we 6 bleary eyed Pebblers made the drive to Denver International Airport. Our stomachs were full from the celebratory burgers and whiskey milkshakes from the night before. The stalwart peaks of the Colorado Rockies passing by contrasted with the landscape of flashing LEDs, 3D printed parts and hardware from the days before. We recounted all the great projects we saw and discussed ideas that were fresh in our minds. Finally we thought of the last minute rush to get things out the door and the last few hours of Pebble Rocks Boulder. It ended in a flurry of activity as judges and hackers made their rounds, eager to learn more about each project. As everything wound down, contacts were exchanged, new-found friends said their goodbyes, and we closed out our conversations; learning as much as we could about their experiences. In the end, it wasn’t about winning the top prize or creating the most commercially viable hack. People found value in the shared experience of working together on a new platform.
All of this resulted in one of the most rewarding hackathons we’ve been a part of. By identifying the goals and working with the great team at Viget, we brought together a diverse group of people to build on our platform. Through this process, we learned a great deal about the smartstrap apis and generated brand new ideas of how to apply them. We are eager to attend more events like this in the future. This was just the beginning of what we wanted to achieve with smartstraps. If you’ve got an idea or want to try your hand at smartstraps, check out the documentation and feel free to reach out to us for anything!
Viget for coordinating this entire event.
Galvanize-Boulder for hosting us in their Boulder office.
23rd Studios for their amazing video and photo coverage of the event.
Lulzbot for providing their 3D printers and personally helping teams to get their models printed.
- Techstars Boulder Demo Night 2015
- Women Who Startup Summit Denver Startup Week 2015
From the peanut gallery: