This post was written by MVP Michael Ochs as part of our Humans of IT Guest Blogger series. Michael explores how hacking and teaching for good with the Power Platform can help benefit children and education.
Late last year, a group of colleagues and I joined a Global Hack for Good event hosted by a community of Microsoft Business Applications volunteers and organizers. The event was open to everyone in the community and donations were taken to benefit children's charities.
No matter what your level of expertise, if you ever get a chance to be involved in an event like this, I highly recommend that you join. It's an experience that will change your perspective on how teams can perform truly unbelievable things when put to the task.
I've been a part of several hackathons in the past, but this one was a little different. Instead of a full day of hacking, each team only had 4.5 hours to design and build working software and prepare a recorded presentation of the finished product. Talk about tight timelines! *flushed face*
What's important to understand is how beneficial an event like this can be, not only for the beneficiaries of the charity, but the targeted audience and teams that participate in the event. There are three main takeaways from these events that benefit both the technology and the people involved:
This hack was focused on children and education. In honor of the Apollo Moon landing anniversary, the team I was involved with was named "Team Apollo". The solution paid homage to that historic event to encourage children to engage with their peers, parents and teachers in writing, reading and sharing their stories in a collaborative environment. The solution was intended to be both a motivator for children and a collaboration and productivity tool for parents and teachers.
The solution leveraged a large number of both low-code Microsoft Power Platform and pro-code Azure technologies including:
Common Data Service
Power Apps Canvas Apps
Power Apps Model Driven Apps
Power Apps Portals
Power Automate Flows
Azure Facial Recognition
Azure Immersive Reader
Some of these technologies the team had previously worked with were in the real world. However, several of them were technologies that were brand new to the group and required rapid learning of the technology to be able to implement.
This is where these types of events can help grow knowledge and allow participants to quickly learn about new technologies that can benefit participants and provide insight into new and emerging technology. It can also help introduce audiences to new technologies that could be used in different industries.
There are several things I've come to learn about these types of events when involved over the years.
The faster the team normalizes and identifies the skills and roles best suited for each team member to be productive, the more success the team will have.
The process of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing is condensed and requires egos to be left at the door for the good of the team.
With so many possibilities, the team has to find a consensus on a design and implementation very quickly to avoid spending too much time planning.
Collaboration is key. You can't just put your head down and get things done. If you have questions, ask. If you have knowledge, share.
In our case, we had the advantage of knowing each other and each other's skill sets very well, which isn't always the case, and can make it difficult if your team is newly formed and individuals have to learn quickly how to make the best use of each individuals skills. However, the key to success has always been that when one team member gets stuck, another will immediately jump in and try to help troubleshoot and oftentimes a workable solution or workaround can be found to fill the technical gap. This has happened every time I've been involved in these types of events.
The greatest thing about an experience like this is how much you can not only learn, but teach others within the team and within the community. The idea is to share knowledge and ideas with the world, and if nothing else, plant the seed of new ideas for others to build upon.
Ultimately, our team won the global challenge, and we were given the honor of selecting the charity to which the donations went. In the process, we all learned how much low-code technology can make a difference and how teams of people with a shared interest can make a difference very quickly with a shared goal.