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Aspiring Software Developers Get Hands-On Experience At CodeFest

Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO

Tech-savvy students from around the region gathered April 1-3 at the University of West Florida’s Pensacola Campus to square off in the inaugural CodeFest software-development competition.

CodeFest, where computer programmers, graphic designers and others interested in the software industry collaborate with professional mentors to bring a product to the demo stage, was organized by Dr. Brian Eddy, an assistant professor at UWF. Participants had 36 hours to come up with an idea for new educational software and develop it into a functioning demo.

Eddy said similar hackathons are held across the country each year. He got the idea for UWF to host its own event after he participated last October in Startup Weekend Pensacola, which is an event geared toward burgeoning entrepreneurs and startup businesses.

“The focus of Startup Weekend is on the business and the idea side. I noticed that it was a little bit light on the technical side,” Eddy said. “I wanted to hold an event that was for the more technically minded, who would want to build something and that would be their focus for the weekend.”

Twelve teams competed in CodeFest, developing products focused on areas of need in education. The categories included: preparing children for kindergarten; music education; programming and computer science principles in K-12 broadening; and participation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Credit Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO
Ryan McAfee with team Cyber Defense demonstrates their project during Codefest at the University of West Florida Sunday April 3, 2016 in Pensacola, Florida.

The team More Cat Memes claimed first place at CodeFest by developing an expandable app with games and learning activities targeting 3-5-year-olds preparing for kindergarten.

“It was an amazing experience. I learned a lot,” said Andrew Hill, a member of the winning team. Hill is a senior at UWF majoring in software engineering.

“It was a lot of fun, and it’s nice to see someone like Dr. Eddy who really cares enough to hold something like this for our benefit,” he said.

Each team was judged on several criteria, including creativity, how well each team was able to demonstrate and explain their work, and the finished product’s “wow factor.”

CodeFest featured students from UWF, Pensacola Christian College, the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of South Alabama and Faulkner State Community College.

Eddy said many of the teams didn’t sleep much after they formed their teams on Friday night.

“These teams have pushed themselves as far as they possibly could,” Eddy said.  

Members of the More Cat Memes team received 48-inch smart televisions for their first-place win. Second-place team, Kitten Factory, which developed an app that uses kittens to teach kids about probability and genetics, each won Myo gesture-controlled armbands. The third-place team, Trivia Nation, which created a trivia game where each time a student correctly answers a question they can gather resources and expand their “nation,” each won headphones and Bluetooth speakers.

Eddy said CodeFest drew interest from students interested in fields beyond computer science.

“Not everybody out there is going to be a computer scientist or a software engineer,” Eddy said shortly before each team demonstrated their projects. “But they were just as critical to the success of their projects as the other people.”


This article is part of a collaboration between WUWF and the UWF Center for Research and Economic Opportunity.


Richard Conn works as a staff writer for the Center for Research and Economic Opportunity at the University of West Florida.