Sunday, March 29, 2015

CBIT CORE Patient Experience Hackathon

I got to go to my second hackathon this weekend, this time being my first health hackathon. Way back when it was announced in a email from Upsilon Pi Epsilon, I considered going but eventually ended up forgetting to RSVP with the busy semester. I was invited to be on a team by someone I was tutoring only two days before the hackathon kickoff. I had plans with a friend but figured I could reschedule them but I wouldn't be able to reschedule a hackathon so I agreed to go.

It turns out my whole team didn't RSVP either but they were going anyway. We got the okay from Yale to go despite this. So at the crack of dawn I woke up groggy as ever to get ready to carpool to Yale. We had a team of about 10 to begin with which got cut down to 4 including myself when it was time to leave UConn. By the time we got there we gained another team member which was one of my friends who traveled separately on the bus to get to Yale. With our team formed, we waited for keynote presentation and pitches. 

I swear we were in the lecture hall for over 2 hours just listening to people talk. The keynote presentations were interesting but the pain points were -- ahem -- a pain. This is where people introduced problems which they were interested in solving through hacking. There were almost 60 of these and almost another 60 pitches to follow up so it was difficult to remember many of the ideas. Our team had already gone in with an idea of developing an app to help stroke patients but still we listened in case a better idea came along. After talking and listening to many people we teamed up with Infinity Home Care to develop an app to help recently discharged patients with COPD. 

After eating a much anticipated lunch of gourmet sandwiches we secured a breakout room and got to planning. I proposed to develop an iOS app since I have experience doing so from a past internship where that's what I did -- all day, every day (yes, even on weekends). Excitedly, I jumped up and started drawing the storyboard for the app on the whiteboard while listening to advice and input from my teammates.

Brainstorming for the app

After meeting with Infinity and relocating, we presented the general idea and layout of the app and listened to their feedback and integrated their ideas into the app. After many hours of discussion, we determined what could be done in the amount of time we had remaining. Unfortunately, I predicted there was no way to get the app fully functional in time since I was the only developer on the team with iOS experience and we only had 2 CSE students including me. Nevertheless, I said we could at least get a mockup completed in time, which we did.

Too much sugar or not enough sleep? Why not both?

After returning the next day, we planned out the final pitch and created the powerpoint presentation with screenshots of the app. Although the app wasn't functional, it didn't matter as we only had 3 minutes to pitch, which wouldn't have been enough time to introduce the problem, solution, AND demo the app. In fact, none of the groups ended up demoing their app due to the time constraint.

I kid you not, the winners of the hackathon won it using a cardboard inhaler. Who knew you could win a hackathon without even making an app? I sure didn't. That just goes to show hackathons aren't all about coding skills. Although my team didn't win, it was a good experience working with people I didn't know on something meaningful. Hopefully I'll be able to attend another hackathon soon... perhaps even during my internship at Google.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Great Google Adventure: The Waiting Game

Christmas eventually rolled around as family asked on a status update for my internship application. I gave them all the same answer -- still waiting. The great wait.

By then a month had passed since getting the okay to proceed to stage 2 -- host matching. I was told it could take up to 6 weeks, so I remained hopeful that I still had a chance. Some past interns on Quora even said the process could take up to a couple months. But then again, some claimed they heard back in as little as 2 weeks. I figured I'd stay in the waiting pool as long as they'd let me. I had already said no to a decently-paid internship with GE that even offered free housing because agreeing would have meant to stop my pursuit of a Google internship for the summer. I hoped I wouldn't regret my decision.

It was January before I knew it. I had reached 6 weeks with no update. Curious, I sent out an email to my recruiter asking about my status. Unchanged, but not to worry as there was still time was the gist of it. 


I tried to remain positive but as more weeks progressed into February I had just about lost all hope. It had been 11 weeks with no host matching requests. "Well at least I got this far..."

Shortly after the 11-week mark, sitting in (thankfully) my last gen-ed for my college career, I received an email titled "Project Interview Request". I would have jumped up and sprinted around campus hooting and hollering but class was just about to start.

One week later, two more requests came in. I couldn't be more excited. I did the interviews with all 3 and ended up getting matched with a host at Google NYC. Shortly after, I signed my offer letter, concluding the application process -- I was really going to Google for the summer. Just last summer I was watching The Internship on TV and now I was actually going to experience the real thing for myself (which thankfully, does not include any "mental Hunger Games").