The Travelling Student – What Hacks in Vegas, Stays in Vegas

My name is Philip Kirkbride. I’m a college graduate from Ontario studying at AU. I’ve always wanted to do an exchange program or study abroad but never found the right time to do so. This is the story of how Athabasca University has allowed me to create my own study abroad program. In the last part Matt was still waiting for his visa approval and I decided to go to Australia without him. I’d be stopping for a half-week in Vegas for a hackathon (computer programming contest).
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It was 5:15am Halloween day when I packed my bags into the back of the cab and said goodbye to my Quebec City apartment. Flying out of small cities like Quebec always seems a bit easier. Smaller lines, easygoing workers, and, of course, smaller planes. After a quick stopover in Chicago I’d soon be in Las Vegas for the Money 2020 Hackathon.

Money 2020 is an annual conference which focuses on exploring the future of virtual payments both in person and online. The majority of the conference is exclusive to corporate executives and business people willing to pay the $2000 entrance fee. However the first two days are open to programmers, designers, and entrepreneurs interested in submitting a prototype to the Money2020 Hackathon, the catch is the prototype must be designed within a set 24 hours.

During the hours of the flight I brain stormed some potential ideas for a prototype project. Well there would be a focus on Bitcoin due to excitement based of its rapid growth, I lacked confidence in working with Bitcoin. I did have a few ideas in mind. Around noon the plane touched down in Vegas. The city was buzzing with excitement for Halloween. On a shuttle bus to my hotel I listened to the driver’s stories of past Halloween parties. Which reminded me that, later that night, Money 2020 would kick off with a Halloween party at the Haze Nightclub.

The conference would be held at the luxurious Aria Casino and Hotel. I, however, would be staying at the Circus Circus. The Circus Circus is far from luxurious and attracts some of the shadier elements of Vegas. A thick fog of cigarette smoke engulfs the first floor which at all times of day and night is buzzing with the sounds of slot machines and drunken gamblers. The room was clean and nearly free so I have no complaints. There are always promos to be had in Vegas.

I skimmed through the textbook for my ECOM320 class. Many of the issues discussed in our class, like the feasibility of micropayments, would be the ones the conference was trying to address. After about an hour I decided I was ready to explore the strip. I put my shoes on pulled an eye patch out of my pocket. It wasn’t much of a costume but it’d have to do.

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