Searching for the next great app

Empty cans of energy drinks and a room full of over-tired people is a sight common at the Great Canadian Appathon (GCA). The first GCA took place March 11 to 13 in 2011, and was brought back for a second round Sept. 30 to Oct 2.

The GCA is a 48-hour event where teams of up to four people program their own original mobile phone application. Nothing was to be done before the 48-hours started, resulting in sleep deprivation for most of the competitors.

Andrew Kamondy, a staff member helping out with the GCA, commented on the amount of ‘hackathons — events where a group of programmers meet to do collaborative computer programming —but explained that “none targeted schools.” The GCA in particular provides the opportunity for university and college students to get a head start on their careers, as well as win some tuition money.

But they pay a physical toll.

“I’m starting to feel the fatigue now,” said Tyler Drurry from team Heap Corruption, about 30 hours into the event.

Some of the competitors elected to get a couple hours of sleep, even though it would take away from their programming time.

“I’m a creature of habit,” said Cameron MaCarthur from team BS, while recalling how he had to take some time away from the competition to rest.

Each team had their own unique game idea that they were trying to program for the event. Chad Gregory from team Karmalab said, “Ours is a flick and shoot game, like hockey.”

Other teams followed a similar sports theme.

“A game of kid’s soccer,” said Thomas from team Unique Road. “It’s basically a bunch of sheep around a ball.”

Team Karmalab added an extra aspect to their GCA experience.

“I’ve been broadcasting all the work on Ustream,” said team member Gregory, mentioning a live video stream where people can watch certain events.

Teddy Shaver, another team member of Karmalab laughed and added, “People have been able to watch us die and come back again,” referencing the cycle of being alert while working, and really just wanting to collapse and go to sleep.

All of the teams were supplied with energy drinks, coffee, candy and even caffeinated soap to help them stay awake.

However, they also implemented their own tricks to staying awake. Gregory shared that he “watched movies and listened to music that wasn’t slow,” to help stay awake.

No matter what they chose to do, the thing that all participants agreed on was that they needed to be distracted from their exhaustion. But the pressure of success was also a factor that kept them going.

With hubs all across Canada and over 100 teams registered in the GCA, there is bound to be some hub against hub competition in addition to the ‘appathon’ itself.

“We stack all of the cans [of NOS Energy Drink] that we drink,” said Gregory. “The biggest tower wins.”

The GCA ended at 4:59 p.m. on Oct. 2. Over the next few weeks there will be a judging process, during which time the top teams will be selected and notified.

On Oct. 7, the top 25 will be contacted and then the top three on Oct.21.

The winning game will be chosen on Nov. 2, along with the prizes. First Place receives $25,000, an interview opportunity with XMG Studio and gets their game published in an App store.

Second Place receives $10,000 and the chance of their game being published in an App store.

There will also be ten category winners that will each receive $1,000.

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