This year’s Knowledge conference attracted some 20,000 attendees to hundreds of breakout sessions, keynotes, and other events. Yet for many coders and the “maker” crowd among us, the centerpiece of the show is the CreatorCon Hackathon, in which developer teams compete to build apps on the Now Platform.
On Day 2, several hundred attendees organized into more than 60 teams gathered for an eight-hour competition that ended at midnight. After presentations by finalists on Day 3, judges announced three winners:
1st place: Team “Scrantonicity”
Comprised of five employees of Pathway Consulting Services Group in Scranton, Pa., the winning team created a ServiceNow app that tracks travel expenses.
The team used Virtual Agent and a range of APIs to build an app that handles airline and hotel reservations, rideshare, and optical character recognition of receipt photos. Team members: Sean Teeple, Marcus Dermont, Jim Trott, Brandon Senese, and Mike Borthwick.
2nd place: Team “Above the Line”
Taking advantage of the fact that Virtual Agent can be set up to be public facing, the runner-up team created an app that automates customer identification for the process of renting or checking out cars.
Social good winner: “Superconnectors”
To create more accessibility for the hearing impaired to work in call center environments, Superconnectors created an app that leverages Service Portal and a web browser’s speech API to convert a customer’s voice to text. It then converts the service agent’s typed reply back into synthesized speech.
Behind the scenes
Some Hackathon teams formed a year ago at Knowledge 2018; others signed up on the fly. They compete for various reasons. “Many people come in with problems they want to solve, or just a core idea for an innovation,” said ServiceNow developer evangelist Jason McKee. “Sometimes they have a great idea but they don’t know how to build it themselves. Others just want to build something.”
CreatorCon Hackathon apps often find their way into new products and services built on the Now Platform. “In past years we’ve had people build business solutions here, take them back to the office, polish them up and move those apps into production,” McKee said.
While the 8-hour time constraint is tough, McKee notes that anything is possible. His personal record for building a functioning app on the platform: 37 minutes.
Other developer competitions are also drawing attention in the CreatorCon area at Knowledge 2019. The BrewOps challenge—which McKee called “program development drag racing”— is running each day of the show. Teams of three developers have 100 minutes to solve a themed challenge. This year, the theme was improving the workflow for a brewery.
As with the CreatorCon Hackathon, BrewOps winners receive tech gadgets as prizes. Bragging rights matter just as much. “In this community, being a Hackathon or BrewOps winner is something you put on your resume,” McKee said. One of last year’s winners, he noted, wound up adding something else to his resume: a new job at ServiceNow.
The third competition, the CreatorCon Challenge, has the most at stake. Teams from ServiceNow partner companies spend the year before Knowledge competing to be finalists. The winning team gets $500,00 in seed money to develop their idea.
Some ideas seem a bit crazy at first. McKee remembers when one attendee brought in a robot and wanted to build a service that could shut down a nuclear power plant remotely.
“If all the electronic control systems on a power plant run wild, this robot’s job was to roll in and hit the manual shut-off,” McKee said. “They had no idea if that was a real thing, they just thought it could be. When they presented their results as finalists, an attendee who works in nuclear power came up and explained that it’s a real scenario. It’s called the scram button.”