Polish dev Daniel Krzyczkowski sharpens his Azure chops by building apps and games at hackathons

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One of the things I like most about being a Microsoft Student Partner is the opportunities the program affords me to explore new technologies and pass on what I’ve learned to other students. The work is challenging, but rewarding.

If you’re at all like me, then you’re probably into tinkering with cool new technologies and developer tools just to see what you can do with them. One of the areas of technology I’m most excited about is the cloud, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the last several months working on a variety of cloud projects.

The cool thing about developing cool stuff for the cloud is you don’t have to be an expert to do it. Sometimes, the easiest way to learn something new is to start off with a fun and basic project. Here’s a good example: I have always dreamed about having my own blog where I can share my experience and knowledge about creating mobile applications. Well, now I have it!

Here’s how I did it. I created a WordPress blog hosted in the cloud using Azure Websites. Microsoft Imagine offers this free to students and even has an awesome, easy-to-follow walkthrough you can use to get started. It was so simple. You can read my blog here.

Once I had my blog up and running, it was time to fill it with content. I write about mobile applications a lot – Windows 10 Universal Apps, Xamarin applications and more. I recently published a blog post focused on how I added Facebook authentication to my Xamarin app using Azure Mobile Apps – check this one out, because it is really easy to do.

Like I said earlier, you don’t need to be a developer with years and years of experience to take advantage of some of the cool cloud technologies out there. Every other week, the company I work for, Predica, holds a meeting called Dev Share where team members present new things they’ve learned about Microsoft technologies. These meetings are really great opportunities to learn from other developers.

I did a demonstration that showed how easily you can connect Windows Phone 8.1 applications with the Azure cloud and enable push notifications for your app. Using Azure Mobile Services, I created a Notification Hub and connected it with my Windows Phone app. You can find many helpful articles about how to do it, for example here. Everyone was surprised how easily and quickly I was able to add this functionality.

This sort of close interaction with other developers is how we become better developers. It’s one of the reasons I love participating in and organizing hackathons. There’s nothing like getting a horde of devs into a room overnight and seeing what they can come up with once the creative juices start flowing. That’s one of the reasons I organized a 24-hour hackathon for .Net devs called Night of the Living Devs.

.NET Groups from different regions in my country were divided into teams representing selected regions. For my region I organized the hackathon at my university – the Polish-Japanese Academy of Information Technology.

This was a competition focused on creating Universal Windows Applications. Each team was tasked with building new apps and games using the Microsoft Azure cloud as a back-end. Students from the whole country were coding their Windows apps and games all day and night. Once the hackathon was finished, each team was given additional time to publish its Universal Windows App in the Windows Store.

The list of created apps is so long that I can only provide some examples of them:

The team from the SGGW University created a tank combat game called “Tankies.” Another team from University in Rzeszów built, Azure Broadcast, a Windows Phone app for creating live broadcasts from your phone using Microsoft Azure cloud.

I definitely recommend you to try to organize similar hackathons – the students who participated were delighted!

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As you can see being Microsoft Student Partner is a great opportunity to build your visibility, gain and share your knowledge with others and, best of all, learn about the new technologies. If you want to get your feet wet with the cloud, I highly recommend you check out the free Azure offer from Microsoft Imagine. It’s super easy to sign up for and doesn’t cost you anything – you don’t even need a credit card! Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough on how to take advantage of the offer, courtesy of the Microsoft Imagine Blog. Activate it today and then get coding!

-      Daniel

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