Helium Blog

Helium Hackathon: Getting Started with IoT in only 24 Hours

Helium recently participated in the student-run Hackathon at the University of Cincinnati, UC Revolution. A “hackathon” is an event where students have either 24 or 48 hours to create a prototype for a product idea or come up with a novel use of an existing technology. The foremost goal of the UC Revolution Hackathon was for students to learn something new. This might mean learning a new technology, diving into a popular framework, playing with unfamiliar hardware, or even learning how to program for the first time. Helium was one of several companies, including IBM, Tata Consulting, and Siemens, attending to support the students and encourage them to use our technologies to create something great.

Helium partnered with Kinetic Vision in sponsoring this event. Kinetic Vision has been a long-time user and partner of Helium, and we both were excited get Helium Development Kits in the hands of students and see what creative IoT ideas would be developed. I attended to represent Helium and help guide the students as they embarked on a 24-hour, sleepless night of hacking with the Helium platform.

None of the students I worked with were at all familiar with Helium, and this was everyone’s first time working with any kind of IoT starter kit. Most have never tried programming hardware before, and only a few had written code to use public APIs. But every team was able to connect off-the-shelf sensors, upload Helium Script to enable to these sensors, and use the Helium Dashboard and APIs to build a prototype of their ideas, all within 24 hours.

The student groups got their Helium introduction from our guide to connect a Proximity and Light Sensor to the Helium Development Kit. This guide requires writing and uploading Helium Script, the programming environment used to interface the Helium Atom device with off-the-shelf sensors and write the logic for reporting to the Helium Cloud. Once they had a solid footing from following the guide, the students either modified the Helium Script to report data based on their product idea or used the scripts as an example and a manufacture’s data-sheet to enable completely different sensors, like Air Quality or Humidity sensors.

After they had set up their hardware, the students used the Helium API to collect data from their sensors. One group created a simple web-based dashboard to display the data from the sensor in interesting ways, and another group used the command-line tool helium-commander to export data as CSV and do further analysis in Excel. The groups even got exclusive access to a not-yet-public feature that makes it a snap to do alerting and processing on live data. This super-charged what features they were able to deliver by the end of the Hackathon, and we think it will do the same for any product. Look for an announcement making this feature public in the next few weeks!I was very impressed by the enthusiasm and creative IoT ideas the students brought to the event. I collected valuable feedback on how the students learned to use Helium, and Kinetic Vision found enthusiastic students to recruit for their co-op programs. I highly recommend for your company to participate in hackathon events sponsored by local colleges and universities as an excellent way to connect with students. Even better, bring some Helium hardware to the event to see for yourself what students can make possible using the Helium platform.

You don’t need a 24-hour caffeine-and-coding binge to get started with Helium. You can get started today by ordering a Helium Development Kit, and come up with your own ideas for a sensing or monitoring production after exploring the Helium Platform. If these students can do it, you can too!