Go Code Colorado is an annual tech competition created by the Colorado Secretary of State. The point of the competition is to create a business tool that uses public data to give businesses and decision makers new insights.
The competition takes place over a fast-paced weekend. Competitors create teams, attend seminars and consult with mentors to create their tool. At the end of the weekend each team gives a ‘shark-tank’ style presentation in front of a group of judges. The projects are judged on: innovation, implementation, technical quality, presentation style and most importantly the use of data sources. The winner of the competition will move on to another round in which they compete with other teams from around the state. The winner is also given access to mentors from the tech community and a cash prize.
Over the 2018 weekend 14 teams entered the competition at the Denver location. Competitions also happened simultaneously in other cities around Colorado. The event was held at Denver University.
For our project we tackled the problem of the skills shortage facing Colorado. We created an app that takes publicly available data about jobs and professions in cities and places around Colorado. This data is then compared to forecasted population growth.
Statistical modeling will show which jobs have a shortage and where there will be a need for certain skills and industries in the future. This data will be useful in helping universities and trade schools decide which vocational programs to focus on.
For the application we created a Node/Express backend. We also made it a REST based API.
The plan was to use the API to make a scalable mobile and web app. The end product would show which locations needed which kinds of skills.
This year was my fist time attending this event. Like many competitors I did not have a team when I signed up for the event. On the first night of the weekend there was a mingler where teams could form.
I found a great team of like-minded individuals: a professional engineer, a DBA, a mathematician project-manager, a dev-ops engineer and a front-end developer. We were all highly motivated and in it to win it.
Over the next two days we worked hard on the project. We had a team git hub repository, a Google drive account and a Slack channel for collaborating. It was common for there to be commits and discussions into the wee hours of the night.
We took over a vacant classroom at Denver University. While working on the project we used every inch of the white boards. There were often heated discussions and diplomatic negotiations. I liked this part of the project. There was an openness to new ideas. In fact it was encouraged for there to always be a devil’s advocate in each decision. This kept the project balanced and on target.
Looking back at the weekend, I’d like to touch on the difficulties in working on this project. First and foremost, the most difficult problem was in coming up with an idea for the tool.
We spent the day debating projects and bouncing ideas off each other. Every member of the team is technically competent, but being creative is a new task for us. The constraints of the competition meant that we needed to take disparate data sets and combine them in an innovative and meaningful way.
This creative process was the most heated part of the project. We would go around and give dozens of ideas. In a team of six intellectually savvy people, it is hard to find one idea to agree on.
In the end we chose the looming skills gap as the project task. The data sets were there and it gave us an agenda that we could dedicate our efforts.
The next problem was in parsing the data sets. Not all industries and occupations had the same kinds of data. Also not all data was located to smaller administration areas. We had several meetings about this. The solution was to use the data that we had for certain occupations in certain areas and to model and extrapolate the data for places that did not have local data. If this project goes forward there are options to use data from job search sites to show where there are current skills shortages.
In the end though we unfortunately did not win the competition. It was a bit disappointing as we put a lot of time and effort into this project. There were some great presentations and the winning teams did a great job. This is the first time all of us have competed in this project, so it is understandable that we didn’t win. It is not a total loss though. This project was a great way to build teamwork, work under a deadline and mesh skillsets.