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Hackathon challenge: 2 days to build & present app

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Opening night of the AT&T Mobile App Hackathon held at the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park. Photo is by Miami Herald staff photographer Al Diaz.

Ideas, teamwork, carbs, Red Bull

"No shortage of ideas or @redbull," tweets Allan Tito. That about sums it up as the ATT Mobile App Hackathon kicks off Friday night.

Too many to count, but at least 150-200 hackers pack into the main presentation room at the UM Life Science & Technology Park. They spill into adjoining lounge areas and another meeting room as well as the benches outside. One attendee who recently moved down from New York tells the crowd he was pleasantly surprised to see such an "awesome tech scene."

Some of the developers, programmers and entrepreneurs come with their teams; others pitched their ideas and hoped to attract programmers and designers to build them. One participant pitches his solution to the audience, one that came to him after checking in at the hackathon. Filling out a paper form to check in, really? There's got to be a better way.

Friday eventing, teams come together and some groups quickly get down to business. That is: Building an app that solves a problem in the market -- all in a weekend. And there are prizes.

How to win? Brian Breslin, who has judged half a dozen similar events, says it's all about the presentation. It's not enough to build a great app in a weekend, you also need to be able to present it well, so choose your best communicator and allow some time to work on that. He also advises to keep your product simple; instead of trying to build 15 features, focus on a few and test them out with peers.

Expect your idea to change along the way and be able to adapt quickly, says Andrej Kostresevic, who talked about using the Lean Startup method. He's organizing the Lean Startup Machine Miami event happening next weekend.

All day Saturday, teams from Argentina, Colombia and Chile  join the AT&T Hackathon virtually and will compete for a separate international prize. The hackathon will culminate Sunday afternoon/evening with 3-minute presentations and the awards. Until then, there will be plenty of innovation going on, along with challenges, changes and perhaps a little angst. But there will also be plenty of Red Bull.

 Good luck, everyone!

The free AT&T Mobile App Hackathon is a collaborative effort brought together by AT&T, ESENEM, CVOX, GeekyBeach, Florida International University's Americas Venture Capital Conference (AVCC), Wexford Science & Technology, The LAB Miami and The Knight Foundation. Follow along at #atthack and #backinhack and #hacklatam


Follow Nancy on Twitter @ndahlberg