Pixels Camp 3.0

It was an awesome event, with an even better team. (Photo credit: tofran on Twitter)

Wow, the past three days were a blast. In case you’re just tuning in, this year I was back at Pixels Camp (along with roughly 1600 other people) wearing many hats, and we all had an amazing time. And like last year, I decided to do a litte summary of what went on from my perspective–except that this time I’m doing it a little bit earlier.

Wearing Our Party Hats

Me and Carlos, minus the hats.

First off, myself and Carlos Morgado (the former evil Quizmaster, now retired–from being Quizmaster, that is) were invited to run two of the “fun” evening events (Chasing Ghosts and Presentation Karaoke) as well as providing live commentary on Code In The Dark, which meant:

  • putting together a bunch of utterly insane presentations on video (which saved us the trouble of having a computer on stage) the week before, amidst business trips and “regular work”
  • popping over to the venue the evening before to set up and configure two Pis with Lakka (the real challenge was getting the controllers to work)
  • and just after dinner on the first day, taking off our “sponsor hats” and running around three different stages in various stages of mild panic

That meant setting things up, tearing them down (always with the help of Hipnose, who are simply the best production company in town), keeping notes on each contest and, above all, keeping the audience entertained with various forms of witticism (which, if you know us, was utterly hilarious for both ourselves and the audience, although I suspect we had marginally more fun).

Finally, for good measure, we ended up bringing Celso and Paulo Laureano (the former Arcade Master) to the stage on the last day to play in front of everyone while we waited for the hackathon votes to come in:

The moment when Celso finally stopped complaining about the controllers (which he picked, incidentally) not working.
He's also about to lose another life in DigDug. (Photo credit: Delfim Machado)

I didn’t have the time to help figure out this year’s T-Shirt challenge (which was both insane and awesome, and involved using a ZX Spectrum), sit down with the Lobsters (you know who you are, you lovable fiends) or go up on the infamous Quiz (although Carlos played a round), but I had a lot of fun.

Oh, and this year we had actual physical badges, too:

Badges? We don't need no... Oh, well, maybe we do.

Representing Microsoft

Since my company was one of the sponsors, during the day time I spent a good while in the booth and among project tables talking to participants and helping them with their projects:

There are quite a few people missing from this shot, but it's the best one I have.

I also got to be up on stage a few times officially, the first of which was to introduce our challenge, which this year was all about using the MxChip 3166 to build IoT solutions.

As it happened, it dovetailed nicely with Gulbenkian’s Hack For Good challenge, and I was able to do the pitch right on time:

The clock was ticking, and (by design) sponsors couldn't see it...

To my great personal satisfaction, many projects decided to tackle both challenges–and the best-scoring IoT project (a smart device for fall detection and medication reminders for the elderly) was neck-and-neck with the winner until the last minute, losing only by a meagre 100 kai (which was the new currency for the event):

A snapshot of the hackathon leaderboard

And guess what, the vast majority of projects in the Top 10 used Azure in one way or another (and 4 of those 10 used the IoT Kit), so I was pretty happy with the way things turned out overall, especially considering that at least two of those teams (which I interacted with directly) started pretty much from scratch (without prior knowledge of either the IoT Kit or Azure) and still managed to build working prototypes under 48 hours.

I was also specially pleased by Kind (a project from University of Aveiro, and staffed by people I know) having won an extra award for their anti-cyber-bullying chat bot.

My last official act was to hand out the 4th place award, and by that time my feet were officially killing me too:

Up on stage again with the 4th place winners

But I’d do it all again without hesitation, and am already looking forward to the next edition…

Like I said to quite a few people over the past few days, it’s like our very own Christmas party, for an ever-expanding extended family and with great traditions–like this one:

(Video Credit: Fernando Miguel)