Bring on the Java: Students develop new apps in Bank’s first Code-A-Thon

November 23, 2016
By Grace Clifton

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City named its first Code-A-Thon winner, a team from the University of Kansas, during an awards luncheon Nov. 15. The team was chosen after the three top finalists presented their code to a judge’s panel at the luncheon.  

Code-a-thons are designed to produce code through collaboration. The Kansas City Fed’s Code-A-Thon was organized by the Bank’s TechEdge program, which recruits students with a knack for computer science. Code-A-Thon participants were given 48 hours to build an application around the theme: innovation for a cause. 

The winning team from KU created a web application called Election IQ, which is designed to help users determine polling locations and information on candidates in their district. The winning team faced several challenges with the overall creation of their app, including basic code functions.

“We had to learn how Google does its searches.” said Zachary Welk, a junior at KU. “At first we were getting Taco Bells and bridal shops and we had to figure out the code for DMVs and city courthouses.”

Overall, the Code-A-Thon had five teams, comprised of 29 students, three teams from University of Kansas, which included the winner and an additional finalist, one team from Kansas State University, also a finalist, and one team from the University of Missouri Science and Technology.

The judges did not make their selection lightly. Months of research went into refining the judging process, and determining how to set expectations.

 "Our goal was to plan for every scenario we could think of, so we could provide the best possible experience for our contestants," said Bryan Danaher, software engineer.

Pictures from the Code-A-Thon awards luncheon


The event kicked off with a conference call on Nov. 11, where the Code-A-Thon teams gathered to watch a video message from Brian Faros, vice president and the Bank’s chief information officer.

“Technology is critical to what we do,” Brian said. “We need to solve technology problems from a team perspective.”

The next two days were spent frantically coding and developing a solution, which involved hundreds of emails exchanges between participants and the Code-A-Thon support team, before final submission. 

Several teams did not know their teammates until they signed up for the Code-A-Thon. The event, however, created many collaborative bonds that will continue after the Code-A-Thon ended.

“We plan on continuing to work on Election IQ and growing the friendship that started from this Code-A-Thon. It was a great experience, I loved it,” said Alex Warrington, junior at KU and a member of the winning team.