My Experience at the Lab's First of Many Hack Days!

Last week the IOL hosted its first monthly day-long hackathon, aptly titled “Hack Day.” Hack Day will be a recurring event focused on creating a time and place to get started on the IOL’s most pressing projects.

For our first Hack Day we tackled three main projects. One of the challenges being worked on was a revamp of the visitor login system. The goal for this project was to have a digital system where visitors could login and alert the appropriate IOL personnel of their arrival. In addition, the project also aimed to develop a solution that would allow the visitor to sign any necessary agreements for their visit on the system as well.

The second project we worked on was a script that synced Gitlab and Jira. We use Jira to at the IOL to track our issues during project management, but Jira lacks any features which would allow vendors to track the status of their issue at their desire. This project also sought a solution that allows Jira to communicate with Gitlab in a way that allowed for live issue tracking for vendors.

I worked on the final project, which tasked us with creating a method for generating a testing schedule for an all-to-all plugfest event. During an all-to-all plugfest, every device is tested against every other device, unless the device is from the same company (i.e. device A would not be tested against device B if they are both made by the same company). We also wanted our solution to be able to account for last minute entries to the plugfest in the event a vendor showed up with an additional device. We decided the best way to collect the information was using google forms, allowing vendors to fill out all of their information without needing the help of an IOL employee. After a form is filled out for a device the information is dumped into a google sheet. We then needed to identify a way to take the collected data from the sheet and populate it into a testing schedule for the plugfest. After some quick research we discovered we could use the sheets API to integrate Google sheets and Python. From there we decided that the best process for our task at hand was to import the raw data from the Google sheet into Python to create a schedule for testing, and then create a new sheet with the master schedule.

Hack Day proved to take an interesting twist on the typical hackathon. The Hack Days will be a recurring event at the IOL so there will be additional opportunities to work on the same projects, which allowed participants to be more thorough at each step of the project rather than feel a need to rush through the development to present a final solution.

Another interesting aspect of Hack Day was the opportunity to work with fresh faces. Each group was represented by members of different consortiums spanning across the lab. Having such a diverse representation of expertise made the projects incredibly interesting to work on because every member brought something unique to the project at hand.

Working on a new project surrounded by new people made Hack Day a great deviation from the daily grind. After this Hack Day I am looking forward to the many more to come!