Sports Authority Field, better known for the roar of crowds and spectacular sprints to the end zone, hosted students writing computer code that brought to life new uses for existing technology during the weekend.
About 100 Colorado students from coding schools, colleges and universities competed in a 36-hour hack-athon that began Friday evening and came to an end Sunday.
Each team was charged with creating a hack — “a clever solution to get something done quickly,” said Brandon West, director of development relations with SendGrid, an e-mail infrastructure provider. “You are going to hack it together, so it is operating quickly.”
Two Colorado-based technology companies, SendGrid and FullContact, partnered with the Denver Broncos to co-produce the first “Tackle STEM Colorado All-Stars Hackathon.”
Students presented ideas ranging from a calculus tutor to a voice-activated e-mail program that can locate a contact in an electronic address book and send an e-mail to the address.
Participants didn’t get much sleep. Some set up tents in the stadium’s United Club Lounge, where the event was held. Others went home to bed and came back a few hours later.
Six students from coding school Galvanize designed a fantasy football program that can manage and update a player’s lineup, pick a quarterback or other position and give the information utilizing a voice-controlled, hands-free speaker connected to the Alexa Voice Service.
The companies provided “a literal buffet of hardware” that contestants used to implement their ideas, said Isaac Miller, 30, a former radio DJ and member of the team.
“Our ideas grew out of what we could do in 36 hours,” said Tyler Maier, 32, another team member.
A University of Colorado team designed an app that will find businesses, clubs or other venues that are “safe places” where gay people or others who might face discrimination can go without fearing rejection, said Jessie Albarian, 25, a computer science student. After logging in, the user can find “businesses that are really welcoming and accepting of everyone,” Albarian said.
Teams demonstrated their projects to a group of judges that included Russell Okung, 29, Denver Broncos left tackle, an angel investor in technology companies. “I make myself available to a lot of these cool companies.”
Okung said he has long been interested in technology, studied coding in high school and learned more about it in the past year.
Participants also had access to mentors such as Ian Douglas, 42, of Stream, who provided tips on software development and helped students sharpen their ideas.
“Hackathon participants are able to meet like-minded hackers, mentors and support organizations to create lifelong and truly invaluable connections,” said Scott Heimes, SendGrid chief marketing officer.
Prizes included signed Broncos memorabilia, a drone, a Sphero robotic ball, United Airlines travel vouchers, Broncos tickets, pregame field passes and other goodies.