MBAS Imagineering Hackathon

Once upon a time ...

The MBAS Imagineering Hackathon was held on Saturday 8th May 2021.  The Microsoft Business Applications Summit (MBAS) had been held the previous week.  As with previous years, the week’s activities were rounded off with a Hackathon, organised by the amazing TDG team.  TDG stands for ‘those Dynamics guys’ aka Chris Huntingford, Kyle Hill and Will Dorrington.

For those uninitiated to the mysterious world of the Hackathon, it’s not as subversive as it sounds.  In a ‘hack’ as they have come to be known, people come together to use tech for good.

This would be no exception.  Teams would be tasked to create a solution that could solve a current world problem.  The only rules were that the 10 commandments of ‘imagineering’ had to be woven in.  Imagineering is a phrase used by Walt Disney to desribe the process of creating magical experiences. Participants would be grouped into teams to create solutions.  The solutions would then be judged by an expert panel.  

The judging criteria, made up of the imagineering commandments  are shown below.

Imagineering Commandments

Twilight Sparkles

I had registered as soon as the hack was announced, and gathered an awesome band of ‘imagineers’ around me.  After considerable discussion, we decided upon our team name ‘Twilight Sparkles’.  The name had been suggested by a team members young daughter, our potential target demographic.  And we also thought the name suggested just the right amount of magic and mystery.  Team Twilight Sparkes was made up of some awesome technologists … and me!  

My job as team leader was chiefly co-ordinate the activities.  Based on my previous hacking experience, I knew how hard it can be to contain enthusiasm.  Therefore I focused on getting one person to do one thing each.  I figured it would be nice to finish the hack with something that worked.  And we totally smashed it!

We based allocation of tasks on the skills and preferences of the team.

Special thanks from all of us to Priyoti for coming up with our awesome team name.

Twilight Sparkles

How Funny!

Unlike with other hackathons, we were not given a set of uses cases, we had to come up with one of our own.  We were asked to consider problems we had recently experienced, and select one of them to solve with tech.  In designing our solution, we also needed to follow the imagineering commandments.

We decided we wanted to do something to help combat loneliness and isolation.  This has been brought to the fore by COVID, but is an issue that permanently affects large numbers of the population.

We designed an app that could be used by a sponsoring organisation to spread a little happiness to those needing it most.  Our app would be called ‘How Funny’.

A miracle at work ...

The app would provide a platform for isolated or lonely people to register for How Funny.  The How Funny app would in the first instance provide a daily joke, but this could be extended over time.  In the future we could include quizzes, puzzles and videos.  Anything that could bring a smile to someones face.

The service could be used by individuals or families to keep loved ones smiling.  It would be managed by a sponsoring organisation.  The idea would be to bridge the generations by involving young children in the selection of jokes and future content.

The key features are listed below.

  1. We would accept registrations through our Power Apps Portal
  2. Registrations would be managed in our Model Driven App
  3. Users would be given access to a canvas app, allowing them to
    1.  read jokes
    2.  provide feedback on the jokes
    3. say how they are feeling
  4. Jokes would be automatically populated via Power Automate
  5. Sentiment analysis would be provided via cognitive services
  6. Power BI dashboards would be available to the sponsoring organisation, detailing service use and highlighting areas for concern

Unbelievably, our team had a fully functioning, completed app by the end of the hack.  This was a first for me, and for several of us who had been in hacks before.  We had set out to build something relatively simple that could be scaled, and we had stuck like glue to that principle!

Perhaps the biggest miracle of all, was that we managed to imagine, design and build all of that in just under 5 hours!  Imagine what we could do in 5 days ….