Marcato Hackathon Overview

I just completed the Marcato Hackathon Weekend, which I think should become a regular event because it was in-CREDIBLE...incredible!

For those who don't know what a hackathon is: it's a nerdFest. Basically a bunch of smarties come together, pitch ideas, organize into small pods/teams and create something in 48 hours or less.

First and foremost, I would like to officially thank Marcato for hosting. Eric Lortie, was the Superman of this event (on the front end). Lortie, with his trustie sidekick, a rubber chicken, made sure everyone was fed, happy and inspired. Marcato not only offered us a venue to work at, it also provided us with pizza, RedBull and beer throughout this event. Turns out developing is the process of turning pizza and RedBull into code.

Founded in Cape Breton, Marcato Festival coordinates music festivals and events worldwide. I have been privileged enough to hear presentations from both their CEO, Darren Gallop, and their CTO, Morgan Currie. Both individuals are incredibly inspiring and have great personal stories about their journey to success. And like all great partners, they complete each other.

The Project:

Mustle: Mind + Hustle

The goal of the Hackathon was to create a service for educators to develop content that meets the learning needs of their students. Using the old adage of "read it, write it, and say it", Mustle takes into account students natural affinity for answering questions in a visual, kinetic, or auditory format. We learn from students to create a individualized learning paths and can provide analytics to improve the learning experience. Educators of all disciplines can easily create content for students that will automatically be tailored to their natural learning styles.

The Mustle Team

I was lucky enough to work with Brian Best and Jake Florian. We are all students at UIT, and both Jake and Brian are significantly more knowledgable about computers and coding than I am, so my main goal was to learn by being in their aura. This turned out to be a surprisingly successful strategy. Jake is an incredibly visual learner and as you can see in the pictures, a visual thinker. Through writing his brain on the white boards, I was able to click into his thought process (at times) and believe I have a better understanding of arrays, objects and more complex functions.


Brian, who may be the most patient person ever, basically allowed me to make him into my private tutor for the 48 hours. He helped me become more familiar with JavaScript, jQuery and introduced me to a framework provider called Foundation (which is awesome). Brian would let me work on a problem for a couple hours while glancing at my screen and every so often say something like: "so what are you doing over there?" and my response was more often then not: "well, I tried this and this and this and now I am just deleting the last 2 hours of code and going to start again." To which he would smile and give me some $ sign of some sort that would solve all of my problems and we could move on.


Brian was also the source of some of my sanity and was not bothered by ridiculous comments, and at time even encouraged them. For example, on Saturday around 2am, while we were trying to come up with a name Brian fully supported my idea of QUIZZARD! And managed to follow my continuous Harry Potter references of the sorting hat and determining individuals different learning styles to assist them (I lost him around Hufflepuff). We eventually relied on Jake's mind muscle and hustle; literally, and all agreed upon Mustle.

The Prize

I should state here that nerds know how to motivate. Beyond the fact that I was getting an amazing learning experience, food, and tons of smart people concentrated in one space, the grand prize was $3000.


As I mentioned there were tons of great projects, and while I was beyond tired and was fighting to stay awake, it was worth it. The presentations themselves were a treat from a smart mouthed Siri, to an app telling you what needs to be used up in the fridge, to a find my friends for my cab driver, bus and more, it was truly inspirational. I wish I had taken notes, different languages, frameworks and programs were being tossed around like common knowledge.

The Winners!

The Grand Prize went to LOLCats: who would have thought: cats + the internet took the cake! But LOLCats isn't just any internet cats, it is an app to let the SPCA post the shelter animals and make it easier for people to search through available animals. Through improving the communication between potential adoptors and the shelter, LOLCats will remove the barrier of inconvienience and hopefully increase adoptions. These three wonderful ladies, are also planning on giving the SPCA this app upon completion. Confirming my belief that there is still good despite any form of competition. Moral of the story: They are awesome. To learn more about LOLCats: read and article in Chronical Herald, or check out a co-Founder Leah Noble's Blog).

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