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Techies in 48-hour race to build clever apps, websites for Tampa

Himanshu Tantia, foreground, and Christopher McElven work on an app Friday that will let neighbors see whose house runs in the most eco-friendly manner. More than 75 people joined the city-sponsored Hack-A-Thon at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Tampa.

CAROLINA HIDALGO | Times

Himanshu Tantia, foreground, and Christopher McElven work on an app Friday that will let neighbors see whose house runs in the most eco-friendly manner. More than 75 people joined the city-sponsored Hack-A-Thon at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Tampa.

TAMPA — Talent from all over Tampa's tech community showed up Friday night to develop new ways to improve city services.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the goal of Friday's Hack-A-Thon was to keep that talent in-house.

"We don't want them moving to Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham or Austin," he said. "I think it will show our developers and technologists that we honor what they do."

More than 75 people joined the first city-sponsored event, which kicked off at 6 p.m. Friday at the downtown Hyatt Regency.

In a dimly lit ballroom, representatives from energy drink companies handed out complimentary cans to get the developers through the long haul.

They all have exactly 48 hours to produce an application or website that would "encourage commerce, tourism or community" for Tampa. Teams can have up to four members, but everyone has to be older than 18.

Daniel Dye, 38, a data scientist from Tampa, decided to work alone on his idea of making an interactive map from tons of police data. "It's just more nimble. There's lots of overhead with working in a team," he said.

Aris MacInness of Tampa runs a creative multimedia company called Imaginary Minds and was one of the few women competing Friday. Her team of four kicked around ideas for a parking app similar to other cities' that would help drivers find available metered spaces and pay online.

"Our idea wasn't about an app necessarily, but taking the everyday issues of residents and finding a solution to one of the problems we face," she said.

Eddie Zaragoza, 29, and Lawrence Vargas, 25, came to the competition with ideas but no coding skills.

"If we don't find anybody (to code for our team), we can still work on our design ideas for the apps," said Vargas, a Realtor from Tampa.

Zaragoza, who owns a T-shirt printing business, said he was just happy to be in the event. "This is just awesome. And there's lots of Red Bull," he said, laughing.

For teams planning to make a weekend of it, the city collaborated with nearby restaurants to offer free meals. Fresh and Bamboozle both were offering catered meals to contestants over the weekend.

City staffers also built a small mound of chocolate snacks to keep the developers going.

"They can camp out or they can leave if they want to shower or sleep in a bed," said Ali Glisson, a city spokeswoman. "City staff will stay to monitor until 6 p.m. Sunday."

All the working programs are due at that time. Winners will be selected by a seven-judge panel and announced Wednesday.

But this competition isn't about winners and losers for Mayor Buckhorn. He made his goal clear in his opening remarks.

"And you damn well better not leave Tampa," Buckhorn said.

Techies in 48-hour race to build clever apps, websites for Tampa 06/22/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 22, 2012 11:54pm]
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