The Travelling Student – The Code of 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 I arrived in Las Vegas for the Money2020 Hackathon.
While nightclubs aren’t usually my scene, the Haze nightclub Halloween party was a lot of fun. Lots of crazy Halloween costumes, loud music, confetti, and flashing lights. I ended up befriending a group from Ohio who agreed to work with me throughout the contest.

The next day started in the Aria conference centre where a breakfast buffet was served as sponsors pitched their API and tools to developers. Each team would pick a sponsor whose tools they’d use for the competition. We decided on using PayPal’s tools to create a mobile app which would allow self-scanning and payment on mobile phones. Most participants, including our team, only aim to create a basic proof of concept to demonstrate their idea.

However, many teams went the full mile, pre-planning their team and projects weeks or months in advance. Over the next 24 hours we lived in the luxury of the Aria conference centre. We finished with a half-baked app which didn’t function as we’d hoped. We had a lot of fun and learned a few things but I didn’t expect to win.

I was pleasantly surprised to see an old friend from Waterloo who was also competing and also using the PayPal API. He’d come with two other student engineers from Waterloo with a planned project. They had modified a small grocery cart to contain an RFID reader, and when an item was placed in the cart the information would be synced to a custom-built iPhone app. The product was well made and complete. It even allowed a payment to be made on the iPhone app, after which a receipt would be emailed.

While they didn’t win the grand prize, they ended up taking home $5000 to split as well as a Samsung Tablet each for best use of PayPal. Most of the other interesting projects were based on BitCoin, an up and coming virtual currency. Some of them simple like a gambling game which runs with BitCoin, to more complex things like an automated trading system which buys and sells BitCoins automatically based on trends.

After the award ceremony we all left the conference area, but the conference would continue for a few days. The competition’s winners would be given the opportunity to present their creations on stage. I found myself one casino over at the Cosmopolitan, where I’d been given some free-play. I don’t remember if I won or lost but the drink service was excellent. While playing I received a text from Matt, so I ordered a Baileys and coffee to go and gave him a call.

Matt explained that he just got an emailing confirming his Australian Working visa. He’d be joining me in Australia after all.