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City hackathon geared towards Calgary’s downtown

Serene Yew lives works and plays in Calgary’s downtown, so she’s invested in its success.

That’s why Yew, a software developer for 16 years and founder of software consulting firm Pixeltree, is helping bring together others in her field to hack away at the downtown.

The YYC Hacks 2022 Hackathon is working with the City and has a focus on the downtown and four key areas: Green Line / Transit, inclusivity, security and the downtown economy. The event goes from July 22 to 24.

It’s been a while since the last big, in-person hackathon, Yew said. She thought this would be a great place to kickstart it.

“I wanted to get the technical community really invested in the local challenges,” Yew said.

“We have a lot of talent here and we’ve been pretty invested in working with the innovation district and growth there, so we wanted to get the technical people out tackling real challenges.”

Yew lives on the downtown’s east side. She walks to work at the Telus Sky building and her kids go to school in the area. That’s why she’s happy to be part of something that could help the revitalization of the core.

“I’m really, really passionate about the Calgary downtown,” she said.

“I think it’s really important for sustainability for us to live close to where we work and where we play.”

The three-day event

Between 100 and 130 people are expected to compete in teams of up to 10 people (minimum of four people on a team).  Yew is expecting it to be 12 teams.

Folks will gather for an initial icebreaker on Friday and opening remarks from Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek.  Sometimes teams will come in together, others will just come in to network, brainstorm ideas and then begin working together.

They may even take advantage of a 60-second pitch session to try to recruit others to their team.

While it’s primarily coders that attend, Yew said software development is so much more than coding. They need people from design, copy and even general industry knowledge.

“There’s definitely room for everybody,” she said.

“The purpose of the event is for people to network with others that they don’t normally talk to on a daily basis. So, I’m interested to see what kind of collisions happen there.”

In the end, teams must create a minimum viable product (MVP); that could be a web app or mobile app, or just a clickable prototype.  Teams will be judged on design and implementation, innovation, impact and viability.

Ultimately, Yew’s goal is to spur tech mentorship in Calgary. It’s part of Pixeltree’s mandate to support entrepreneurs and scale their technology. She said there’s a lot of awareness around the startup and entrepreneurial side of the industry, but not so much on the technical side.

“The technical talent tends to be a little bit more introverted,” Yew said.

“They don’t speak out as much and it’s harder to get them involved in things. So, I want them to know that there’s a place for them in the building of the innovation district.”