The GreekPillar team was out in full force last weekend where they competed in Lehigh University’s first annual hackathon. For a full 24 hours, teams were tasked with either creating new applications from scratch or using technologies provided by sponsors such as Thomson Reuters and IBM. The GreekPillar team elected to create something completely new. The result was Burst, a one-to-many group messaging application.
Co-founders Greg Potter and JJ O’Brien tapped two interns in order to round out what was a ferociously competitive team. Corey Schmalzle, a junior Mechanical Engineering student who will intern for the company full-time this summer, provided business development and cinematographic assistance. He has already has directed and produced his own indie film, and his execution of Burst’s demo video along with JJ was most concisely summarized as “masterful.” Meanwhile, Tim O’Hearn, a senior Computer Science & Business major who has interned part time as part of his independent study in Entrepreneurship, spent his time developing the iOS and Android versions of the app using the Ionic framework. Most noteworthy was his striking similarity in appearance to Greg Potter.
The competition was housed at Lehigh’s Mountaintop Campus in a former industrial building used by Bethlehem Steel and was filled to capacity with hackathon participants. In total, over twenty teams competed through the night. Though the GreekPillar team saw their productivity spike in the early hours of competition, they soon became preoccupied by a few pesky bugs and food that, by all measures, was quite alluring. Nearing midnight, the team became aware of how underprepared they were for the challenge they faced. Other teams had constructed blanket forts, brought changes of clothes, and one team had even set up three extra computer screens. However, the team was able to persist into the early morning with an “all for one” mantra and a can-do attitude. The result was a robust, scalable backend that was begging to be implemented.
The next morning, the team regrouped. While JJ and Corey ran to another building in order to begin filming their masterpiece, Greg and Tim stayed fixed on getting the app fully operational. Tim built out the front end and wrote the following in his Git commit at approximately 11AM: “I made it look really pretty!” With the app due for judging at 3PM, Greg and Tim submitted a final version to JJ at noon before taking a lunch break.
JJ ran back to the table to inform the pair that they had forgot several key features and that now time was running out. The premature celebration was ceased and confetti was quickly swept up. A true friend and a valuable teammate, he stood by the table and made sure that both Greg and Tim stayed focused on the task at hand. They are known to deviate slightly, from time to time. Corey was left alone in a foreign building for a period spanning almost two hours. Though he is moderately scared of the dark, he found a razor scooter with light-up wheels that kept him occupied during this time span.
At 2:15, one feature still not working and some video still yet to be filmed, JJ took a bathroom break. It was here that he recorded a monologue that will go down in history. The full transcript will never be shared, but he expressed a glimmer of hope yet: “I have a lot of faith in this idea. Plus, we have a dedicated team. Greg always pulls through. Greg always pulls through. Burst will revolutionize the way that groups communicate and this is just the first step. The first hurdle. If I made it through pledging I can go through anything. We can do this.”
JJ checked up on Tim and Greg one last time. Tim was ensuring Greg’s development computer didn’t go on standby while Greg was putting the final touches on the app. At 2:45, all moved to the second, empty building. Greg committed his code. Corey stopped riding the scooter and got to filming. JJ worked his magic. Tim began riding the scooter and delivered a sandwich to JJ. At 2:57, the app was submitted; pictures, videos, description, repository, and all.
Two rounds of judging commenced. The team took great pride in showcasing their idea, with two computers set up running demo videos and two phones running the app in real time. After an hour, it was announced that the team had made it to the final five who would present to the industry judges. Some time later, the GreekPillar team presented last to some fanfare. Corey Schmalzle ran the video presentation perfectly while Greg, JJ, and Tim had a large stage presence.
After a nerve-wracking waiting period during which Greg called his mother for emotional support, it was announced that Burst had won first place. Congratulations were abound- it was a fantastic event and our competition was formidable. LehighHacks was a special and uniquely Lehigh experience that we are honored to have been a part of.
What’s next for Burst? Keep following GreekPillar to find out!