Great Canadian Appathon hits Laurier campus


(Photo by Samantha Kellerman)

Over hours of lost sleep, numerous cans of Red Bull and fingers rapidly coding away, a group of Wilfrid Laurier University students decided to take the challenge and participate in XMG studio’s annual Great Canadian Appathon from Sept. 28 to 30.

Also known as a “hackathon”, the event was held at 39 university and college campuses across Canada and put 145 teams of four through a grueling 48-hour long mobile application-making process.

Their goal was to construct the best retro themed mobile video game they could in the time allotted.

“It was great to see something come together in 48 hours,” explained Vaughan Hilts, a first-year computer science student and one of the eight students that participated from Laurier.

“Toward the end it was really tricky, we were running into a couple of issues, but I’m happy how it turned out.”

About 500 students participated, which was, according to Lydia Schaele, the public relations specialist from XMG, a 25 per cent increase from last year.

She noted that the event was a great experience for those who want to get into the mobile technology industry and past winners have gone to land reputable jobs after graduation.

“It also doesn’t matter if you’re an arts student or a communications student even, if you’re willing to work for 48 hours and really put your own creativity to the max, then you’re a great candidate,” said Schaele. “You don’t have to be a developer.”

This was, however, the first year in which Laurier was a “hub” for teams to participate in the nationwide event.

XMG contacted Laurier computer science professor Chính Hoàng last year and asked if Laurier was interested in participating.

“I think it’s a good event because students learn new things, such as program techniques,” explained Hoàng. “[Especially] when they have to do these things in 48 hours.”

After XMG studio and various judges from the industry sift through the hundreds of apps they received, XMG will award the first place team with a prize of $25,000 in late October.

Schaele added that there will also be “category” prizes for achievements in graphics or sounds.

But Hoàng didn’t want that to be the motivation for students.

“The idea is not the win — of course it’s nice to win — but just to learn new things,” he said.

In a world where smartphone technology dominates most of society, Schaele stressed that this competition helps build the necessary skills to work in the mobile industry.

XMG also used “hackathons” for their own employees and some of their most well known games have emerged from those.

“If this works for us very well, it would probably work for others as well. And that was the origin of the Great Canadian Appathon to give this opportunity to students,” she added.

The only downside for Hoàng was that the turnout wasn’t as large as he originally hoped.

“I was hoping for more participants, but I know that even bigger universities such as [the University of] Waterloo and [the University of] Toronto had no more than ten or 12 [participants],” explained Hoàng.

“The turnout for Laurier was pretty crummy, it was just two teams,” echoed Hilts.

“I would definitely do it again, it was fun.”

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