Hackanooga draws techies from across the nation to Chattanooga

Friday, September 14, 2012

photo Enoch Elwell

FIND OUT MORE• A demonstration of the projects is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Church on Main, 1601 Rossville Ave.• More information on the web at www.Hackanooga-2012.eventbrite.com.

Chattanoogans may have as many as 12 new uses for the city's world-class Internet speeds by the end of the weekend.

Today, 80 computer pros from across the nation descend on Chattanooga for "Hackanooga," a 48-hour marathon programming weekend that challenges participants to create killer apps for taking advantage of Chattanooga's gigabit-per-second Internet speed. Participants will form about a dozen teams to copple together computer applications to pitch to Mozilla, U.S. Ignite and others at the conclusion of the weekend event on Sunday.

"I'm really excited to see what's going to come out of the event," said Enoch Elwell, CO.LAB program director and a leader in the summer's Gig Tank challenge. "We expect to see a lot more code and a lot more working projects at the end."

But getting out-of-town programmers in the city may be more important than the applications that come out of the program. Building Chattanooga's Internet infrastructure wasn't cheap, but that investment could hit a huge payoff if next-generation web developers decide to locate in the Scenic City.

"You already are starting to see a stream of developers in this community," Elwell said. "We want them to see what kind of platform we have here. We also want them to experience the community we have here."

Dmitri Boulanov is one of those developers programs like Hackanooga try to attract. The Boston-based biomedical engineer will fly down today to work with other coders on his idea for a remote medical monitoring application.

Boulanov is happy living in Boston, but the cost of living is high. He said if Chattanooga continues to up its number of resources like Hackanooga, he could see the city as a viable place to live.

"You would traditionally think of Silicon Valley or Boston or Cambridge as being the hubs of technology for software development," he said. "It seems like Chattanooga is growing to be another hub."

Chattanooga's technology atmosphere seems to be a bit contagious. Nancy Patterson, a self-described wannabe coder and bored member with the local PBS affiliate, started her own programming project this summer. She said she's excited to take part in this weekend's event, hopefully developing a platform for PBS to congregate local content and make it more accessible to community members.

She and most of the other attendees need plenty of excitement. The non-stop event will provide them with very little time to sleep, but Patterson wouldn't want it any other way.

"I love high-energy people who don't mind working really hard for intense periods of time to move the needle quickly," she said. "I really saw an opportunity for a project witch is launching to be tested or fast tracked this weekend."

Developers often have projects in their heads that never move from the "someday" to the "today" phase. Hackanooga is intended to give them an excuse to finally get around to those pet projects.

But most importantly, the event is aimed at keeping up the momentum gained from past gig-focused events.

"The biggest benefit that's come out of this is the continued national focus on what's going on here," Elwell said. "It's exciting to see this is a sustained thing and not just a flash in the pan."