“Gone hacking” read the sign I hung up on my cubicle before heading downstairs to the first floor at Sabre headquarters. As I made my way down to “Hacker’s Den,” as it would soon come to be known, I wasn’t sure who would be there, but I was certain that I was about to witness the future of application development firsthand. The #ReinventTravel Hackathon, powered by Sabre’s new Dev Studio, was the company’s first external hackathon. The 16 teams of both in-person and virtual developers, plus  five judges assembled themselves  with only 24 hours to build an app that aimed to #ReinventTravel by using at least one Sabre Application Programming Interface (API).

As I first entered the “Hacker’s Den,”I felt amazed. The teams were spread out across the room, creating table islands where multiple Macs, PCs and smart devices were perched. I also noticed that the developers were all very different. Some participants were very young, some competing as young as 15, and others were older. Most of the developers I got to know were professionals who made a living in the tech industry but there was also a sizable crew of amateurs who just came out for fun as well. Although the participants differed in age and experience, the one thing that united them was their collective desire to learn, experience and (most importantly) code! Developers from far and wide had learned of the hackathon from one source or another, either directly from Sabre,   social media chatter and from some major technology communities like the Windows Mobile Development Media group. With the developers assembled, the tables arranged, the snacks laid out, and the gratuitous amount of energy drinks ready, it was time to kick off the hackathon. At noon on the dot, 24 hours of intense hacking, coding, troubleshooting and creating began without a hitch. The teams were in full throttle, and the clock was ticking. Whether it was reflected in the name (like the team of one named “All By Myself By Celine Dion”) or in their attire, like matching hats, it didn’t take long for me to notice that each team had its own personality that would play a role in their performance. Differences aside, there was one thing that would play an equally significant role in each team’s effort; the new Sabre Dev Studio API platform, which put an unfathomable amount of travel information at the fingertips of each developer. With this tool the contestants would be able to tie connections between data that were previously unimagined with some magical results.

The hours went by quickly as the snack wrappers and crushed energy drink cans piled up. As I moved from group to group and got to know everyone a little better I learned something. The main motivation behind these developers giving up their time was not the cash prize (while that was extremely enticing), nor the notoriety; it was the chance to use the Sabre Dev Studio, learn, grow as developers and most of all have fun. Most, if not all, of the developers were here because it was their hobby and they wanted to hone their craft.

As the clock wound down, their skills put to the test; final decisions were made and finished products were hammered out. The clock stopped and the creating had come to a halt, all that was left was the judging of what had been done and left undone. Every team gave a valiant effort and I wish I could say that they all hacked the good hack but our panel of esteemed judges was here to determine who deserved the title of top hacker. After presenting and deliberating it became clear who the winners were. With much fan-fare the challenge winners were announced and each accepted their prize. Finally, the grand prize winner was announced, the team who had not only completed their challenge but excelled beyond all other challenge winners. The application was called TripBlaze and its functionality was remarkable. TripBlaze allows users to create a profile by providing certain personal information. The app then uses that information and the APIs it is connected with to offer intelligent travel suggestions (similar to Netfilx’s movie suggestions). While TripBlaze’s team may have won the grand prize, everyone involved was truly. We learned, we were challenged and most importantly we all had a hacking good time and that’s the greatest prize of all.

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