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Local hackathon looks to tackle Calgary as a winter city

The YYCHacks hackathon will be a part of the 2023 Chinook Blast winter festival.

They first started by focusing their efforts on downtown Calgary.

Now they’re looking at Calgary as a winter city.

YYCHacks Winter Edition hackathon will take place Feb. 3 to 5 as a part of the Chinook Blast all-winter festival in Calgary. As such, they will be asking entrants to focus on creating innovative software that captures Calgary as a winter city destination.

“I think we have to see winter as more of an opportunity,” said Serene Yew, YYCHacks founder and CEO of software development company, Pixeltree.

“There are a lot of things that we can do in Calgary that we can’t do in other cities.”

The group’s last hackathon in July was oversubscribed, Yew said, and they had to open up more spots just days before the competition. The focus was on Calgary’s downtown livability.

Now, teaming up with Chinook Blast, the goal is to foster Calgary’s goal of being a winter city tourism destination.

“We are thrilled that YYCHacks is back and is happening during Chinook Blast,” said Franca Gualtieri, Executive Director of Chinook Blast from Tourism Calgary. 

“Chinook Blast is about bringing people together and showcasing innovations and creativity in the city. The tech sector is a growing sector in Calgary and incorporating this premiere event into our winter festival gives people the chance to see and be inspired by the talent we have in this city.”

Yew said that while some may shun winter, this is an opportunity to embrace it.

“I think instead of trying to work around winter, we want to work with it,”

“It’s to see what kind of opportunities that it provides us, rather than ‘why does the air hurt my face?’”

Building Calgary’s software development community

Yew said continuing to cultivate and connect Calgary’s tech community is critical for its health and survival. Often, groups are working in silos.

“Community is not something that happens, it’s something we have to work towards building,” Yew said.

“We never build software for software itself. We’re always building it with purpose.”

Bringing technical talent together with others who are thinking about that purpose will underpin the tech industry, Yew said. It’s not just bringing the tech talent together, but it’s exposing it to the greater community.

“We’re building something more cohesive, that’s solving larger problems to improve our city as a whole,” she said.

Plus, they’re hoping to draw from a wider pool of people to contribute to these solutions.

“Software development talent of all levels are welcome,” Yew said.

“There is a strong need for technical talent in Calgary as the innovation industry expands, and this hackathon is helping to grow the community for new and established coders, graphic designers, project managers, and anyone who can contribute to software development.”

This year, Yew will once again be joined by Mayor Jyoti Gondek for a fireside chat on the local tech industry.  Also this year – due to demand – there will be public ticketing available just for the judged portion of the event.

The event will happen over three days at the Platform Innovation Centre.