At the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) last week, two teams of super-smart college students and one team of awesome  IT professionals added up to cool apps and mega-collaboration.  The theme was to create innovative math apps for middle school students.  The catch was that the apps had to be written to be cloud-aware and landed on the cloud that we brought with us to IDF.  Much was learned during the two day hackathon and, in the end, the IT Pros prevailed, winning the hackathon with the Cosmic Math app.


The objective of Cosmic Math is to solve equations in order to advance your spacecraft to the next planet of mathematical difficulty.  The Cosmic Math GUI demonstrates responsive design by running on both phone and laptop browser, and with a really cool star-field animation.  The app includes Facebook login and a fan page so you can “like” Cosmic Math.  The backend contains an extensible database of math equations for each planet and it publishes restful web services which are consumed by the GUI frontend.  In addition, Cosmic Math uses internet-based web services like Intel CSP which enables user authorization and Facebook login.  Most importantly, the IT pros, who were mainly from Intel IT, pushed Cosmic Math to the cloud and it worked and scaled out.


The two student teams started with math apps that they had been building during previous hackathons.  One app is a multi-level landscape of math that builds-up in layers as you play.  In the other app, the objective is to destroy incoming asteroids by answering math problems correctly.  It was clear that the students were comfortable with HTML5 and client-side programming.  The challenge for them was to learn cloud computing concepts like stateless sessions, scale-out multiple instances, and how to bind to cloud databases.  One student admitted this hackathon was the first time he ever deployed an app to a server, much less a cloud.  We were proud that both student teams accomplished pushing working apps to the cloud and made progress toward incorporating additional capabilities like using MongoDB.


In our awards ceremony, we crowned Cosmic Math the winner and awarded the IT pros with rulers for “measuring up.”  As a consolation we gave the students Target gift cards for staying “on target.”  In addition, we bestowed kisses on everyone (Hersey kisses, that is) since we all won during the hackathon as the goal was to learn. 


On one hand, we learned about the latest innovative technologies and cloud computing techniques.  Our IDF private cloud incorporated Intel Xeon E5 servers, an Open Stack Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Intel IT’s Platform as a Service (PaaS), which is based on Cloud Foundry and Iron Foundry open source projects.   On the other hand, we learned from each other in a creative, immersive environment.  As a result of working with the students, the pros lightened up their GUI and made it more fun.  The students learned about software architecture approaches and more tactical skills about PaaS.


Already, the student leaders are asking for a rematch.   Next IDF anyone?