BITS Pilani GOA Google App Engine Workshop : A Recap

The App Engine Workshop organized by Google Developer Group Goa in association with BITS Quark 2013 concluded late on Sunday evening and I had a great time, both conducting the workshop on Saturday and then working with the students in the 12 hour hackathon on Sunday.

BITS Pilani Goa

The Workshop on Saturday was a 4-5 hour affair with an introduction to Google App Engine, development environment setup and an overview of Web Development and using Google App Engine Services like Datastore, XMPP, Email and Cron Job. We faced several challenges by the way of making sure that everyone’s development environment was setup fine and the basic applications were able to compile and deploy. We tried our best and some of the common issues that we faced was around JDK 6 or 7 on everyone’s machines. I will try and write up a post later on some of the issues that a first timer to App Engine is likely to face while setting up his/her machine for the first time and deploying their first apps to the App Engine live environment.

BITS Pilani GOA Main Building

The 2nd day was a 12 hour Hackathon with a trimmed down crowd from yesterday. I guess the really serious and interested among the students showed up on Sunday with a clear determination to write an application. I loved this attitude of the students who till 12-24 hours back had probably no inkling of what App Engine is but here they were on a Sunday morning all geared up to move things along, no matter what the odds were. To me, these folks will be the real winners in the future.

We had a total of 7-8 teams and finally we saw the following applications:

  • Virtual Assistant, helps out with every day tasks/reminders. A Google Talk Bot which can have your meeting schedule and can then provide you information of upcoming reminders, etc.
  • Cab Sharing App for BITS Pilani campus residents. Share a cab/save costs.
  • BITS Tech Search. Search for campus residents with specific skills, areas of research, etc.
  • Google + Bing + Social Media Merge Search. Web Interface + Google Talk client.
  • Birthday Reminder, extensible to other reminders. Google Talk Bot.
  • Data Image Search/Image Recognition. Matlab module Integration with App Engine.
  • IMDB Movie Database Search. Search by Category, Genre, etc. Web Interface and Google Talk Bot.

We had one checkpoint in the afternoon to see where the teams were with their tasks and then finally demos that got kicked off after 8PM.

The winners were:

  • 1st Prize : Virtual Assistant
  • 2nd Prize : Cab Sharing
  • 3rd Prize : Birthday Reminder

All of the above applications have tremendous potential and I sincerely hope that the teams take them forward by working on them regularly. If they are able to execute on the future enhancements that they pointed out in their final demo, one can be sure that these applications can be well used by the BITS campus residents.

I would even go to the extent of saying that the participants should host their code on Github and let everyone at BITS pitch in and improve the project.

Special mention: GDG Goa and BITS Quark organizers were terrific in their arrangements. They made my whole task of travelling , stay in Goa most comfortable. Their co-operative attitude and an ability to address all the little issues that one faces while doing any event is commendable. Thank you folks.

For those who could not make it to the Workshop: The material for the workshop is hosted free for anyone to download and learn at their own pace.

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