June 26, 2018

Bottle Rocket’s 7th Annual Rocket Science Hackathon

Rumblings of newly released features and tools from WWDC and Google I/O have subsided, but that doesn’t mean we’ve moved on from them. Quite the opposite, really.

Each year, we set aside two full days of work to explore emerging technologies, challenge ourselves to learn something new, collaborate with our co-workers, and make something amazing. Bottle Rocket’s annual two-day hackathon, Rocket Science, is a chance for all Rocketeers to explore new technologies or interests while creating something fun for the office or potentially life-changing for its users.

With nearly 30 projects this year, this recap would be a little hefty if we were to cover them all. So, here’s 5 that we can’t stop talking about.

hands holding an iPhone displaying current location on map

Project Title: CF Alert
Tech Explored: Progressive Web Apps (PWA)

Cystic Fibrosis is a devastating disease afflicting more 30,000 Americans with more than 75 percent of those diagnosed before turning two years old. As if that weren’t enough, children with Cystic Fibrosis cannot be within approximately 20 feet of each other due to the risk of transferring bacteria that can lead to serious infection in other patients. With that in mind, team CF Alert built a proof of concept PWA that would notify parents when another parent of a Cystic Fibrosis child was within 20 feet of them. This PWA concept was simple, elegant, and easy to use, and could potentially be life-saving for families coping with this serious condition.

Russell Mirabelli presents the Metal Detector App

Project Title: How Metal Am I?
Tech Explored: Create ML and CoreML

Leveraging Machine Learning for image and audio frequency analysis, this team looked to answer just how METAL something was. Simply snap a photo or let the “Metal Detector” app listen to the sounds around you and it will provide a Metal Quotient for how hardcore it is. While showcasing the app in the photo above, Russell took a selfie which resulted in a 34% Metal score, which is probably largely due to the Led Zeppelin shirt.

Project Title: Empathy Lab
Tech Explored: Analog

Several accessibility experts at Bottle Rocket worked together to create a truly interactive experience to help others empathize with those that are not able to use traditional inputs for technology that we interact with on a daily basis. For instance, how do you tap on a touch screen when you are unable to use your hands? This team set out to convey those struggles. Seen at the top of this page, the blue bar in the image is actually a form of crosshair that will move across the screen and stop when a Switch is triggered. From there, another horizontal line will appear, and the process is repeated. The user must time their taps to intersect the blue lines over the icon or button they want to click. It’s difficult to imagine what it’s like to have to use these devices in everyday life, but this experience definitely shed some light on the importance of designing with these needs in mind.

MacBook and Google Home sitting on table

Project Title: Device Manager Voice App
Tech Explored: Google Assistant and Firebase

As Digital Voice Assistant adoption continues to rise, we continue to look for applications of the devices that go beyond simple “questions and answers.” Just as the name says, this team was able to use a Google Assistant App to manage our Quality Assurance device cabinet (which by the way currently includes over 400 devices). Instead of picking out a device, walking up to the checkout system, entering your name, scrolling to find the device (you get the picture), Rocketeers can now walk up and have a conversation with Google to expedite the checkout process.

NERF gun altered to include Arduino hardware

Project Title: BLAST'EM
Tech Explored: Image recognition, Arduino, Machine Learning

Tired of Imperials marching across your lawn? BLAST ‘EM has a solution to rid you of those pesky Stormtroopers. By combining Machine Learning and Arduino supplies, this team was able to create an automated Nerf gun that could recognize a Stormtrooper and fire after finding the target. The best part? They saw about a 25% success rate when using a paper mask, but nearly 100% success rate once Founder and CEO, Calvin Carter, ran over and grabbed his homemade Stormtrooper helmet.

CEO, Calvin Carter, is shot by NERF gun while wearing stormtrooper helmet

As this year’s 7th annual Rocket Science comes to a close, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention just a few other notable projects that our Rocketeers conceived and created over the course of 48 hours.

  • AR Smile: An Augmented Reality app that would place emojis where it detected smiles and frowns in a room
  • Mix Up: A PWA for creating and rating cocktails
  • OWL Stats ML: A Machine Learning model that attempted to predict winners of Major League Gaming competitions
  • AR Multi-Player Piano: An Augmented Reality app that allows multiple people to place virtual keyboards in the real world – then play them and record the audio from their session
  • Kegerator 3.0: A team that created a display for the “Double Tap” Kegerator with an app that allows Rocketeers to see what beers are currently available along with the ability to rate them

Our “favorite fail” of the year goes to a team that attempted to teach a computer to play Mario Kart on an iPad, only to find out the emulator and Machine Learning model required different versions of iOS.

Want to learn more about the technologies used in this year’s Rocket Science and how they can benefit your business? Contact us today.

March 15, 2018

Bottle Rocket’s Olympic Hackathon

Over the past week, our developers have been hard at work on (loosely) Olympic-themed projects using the latest features and resources available from Apple, Google, and anything else that caught their attention. Before we dive into the projects and who ended up winning, we wanted to explain the importance of hackathons to Bottle Rocket's culture.

Learn about our yearly hackathon, Rocket Science.

Taking a Moment to Try: 3 Reasons Hackathons Matter

Reason 1: Trial by Tepid Fire

Each year, the tech giants that power the computers in our pockets release a wide range of new features and capabilities for their platforms – though some features you might not see until the following year. Whether the feature is in Beta or because we haven't found a need for it in a client's app, it is important to take the time to learn and play with them anyway. We’d rather constantly run into roadblocks building an app that literally has no purpose instead of discovering the problems in an active project.

Reason 2: They’re Fun

When asked about hackathons, a Rocketeer involved in the event said, “I used to think hackathons were just for kids and college students, but I couldn’t be more wrong. They’re fun, fast-paced, and exciting, which is a great way to get students involved, but they’re still just as fun for adults.” Hackathons are a time away from the pressure of client work, where failure is without consequence. There’s no breaking of keyboards, just laughing along with the insanity of it all.

Reason 3: They Reduce Time-to-Market

Unknowns are the bane of project estimations. The more we know about the tech in question, the fewer variables there are in planning. Instead of jumping into a project that suddenly doubles in duration due to unforeseen problems with a feature or how to best implement it, hackathons give us the time to learn everything we need to know. Then, when the time comes to add a new feature for a client, we already know what to expect.

But enough about hackathons, here’s what happened in our latest event.

Results of Our Olympic Hackathon

In First Place: The PIPlads

This team (seen in photo above) explored the new Android feature Picture-in-Picture mode. The goal was to have a live scoreboard of country medal counts displayed as you use your phone for other day-to-day tasks. They were able to get a functioning prototype completed and even discovered a few fun facts along the way. For instance, they found that if you make the aspect ratio of the minimized screen to extreme, it’ll crash. Also, they found that you could make the panel transparent – a totally useless feature unless you want to confuse your users, but a cool find nonetheless.

Testing Connectivity in iOS 11 by playing a game on two different, emulated devices

Second: The Gas House Gang

Seeking to better understand the capabilities of connectivity in iOS 11, The Gas House Gang made a curling(-like) game in which you slide pucks into area marked with a target. The reason this is interesting is that they had it running in two different applications – not the same application on two devices, but two different applications. While this might not sound like a feat, it shows the potential of having two completely different applications updating in real time to display information from each other.

taking pictures of a muffin and watching it post to the application

Third: The Things

Riding off the concept of tracking athletes’ diets, The Things explored one of the newer sides of IoT devices in the Android ecosystem – Android Things. Using a Raspberry Pi, the team had a functioning prototype that allowed them to photograph the food they were about to eat and then automatically post it to a channel of their choice. This could, for example, allow athletes to easily snap a photo and share it with their dietitian with the click of a button.

Honorable Mentions

Everyone’s a winner in our eyes when it comes to hackathons. While some may not have finished, others found that the technology they were trying to leverage was actually not ready for the spotlight.

Brand New Wizbangs

This team put Apple’s ARKit 2D image detection and face mapping to the test with this face-painting experience. However, they ran into a roadblock trying to merge some features as the application would not allow it and crashed during each attempt to do so.


Leveraging Android’s Autofill Framework and Firebase Realtime Database, Javelin worked to create an up-to-date, real-time database that could update information and provide it as an autofill suggestion on the fly.


Alloy explored Metal, Apple’s proprietary graphics processing engine, and was able to have the five rings of the Olympics animated used 1,000 triangles.


The Monads used GraphQL and gRPC to solve API request issues and better refine the answer to a single request from a database instead of having to pull data in multiple requests.

Got an idea for your business but not sure where or how to start? Reach out to Bottle Rocket. We may just have an answer for you.

January 6, 2017

What’s Next in In-app Purchases | A Mini-Hackathon Recap

At Bottle Rocket, we like to host mini-hackathon events through the year. Similar to our annual Rocket Science event, these hackathons are nights where our engineers concentrate on one theme or aspect of technology development – beacons, healthcare, etc. – and create an application or idea within a few short hours. These short bursts of iteration, testing, and collaboration help our team conceptualize the next big solution for future-focused brands.

For our latest hack night, Bottle Rocket explored in-app purchases, where our developers prototyped in-app purchase mobile experiences for everyday and business situations. For example, Rocketeer Drew Wyatt experimented with Apple Pay for Web for a current client of ours. Another project consisted of curating a playlist for events based on a bidding system, where all the money would theoretically go to charity. A few Rocketeers even created in-app purchasing for their ongoing Poker app project.

In-app purchases provide a way for brands to monetize additional content, subscriptions, or services within their mobile offering. In the coming year, analysts predict in-app purchase revenue to be the number one source of mobile app income, accounting for 48.2% of earnings (compare that to 14% for ad earnings). Hackathons allow our industry experts to stay on top of the latest wave of technology advancements and puts Bottle Rocket in the best position to advise, strategize, and build state-of-the-art digital experiences.

Our passion for learning and development drives Bottle Rocket’s culture and work. Make sure to contact us to learn more about how Bottle Rocket’s services and offerings today.

May 20, 2016

Bottle Rocket’s Rocket Science 2016 Recap

At Bottle Rocket, innovation is fueled by passion, drive, and fearlessness (plus plenty of caffeine). We jumpstart that innovative spirit annually with Rocket Science – an official timeout from normal work duties to focus on individually selected projects.

This 24-hour-hackathon-style event, as Founder and CEO Calvin Carter stresses, is an exercise with no judgment. It’s an opportunity to stretch skills, explore new technologies, take risks, and work on passion projects.

As an added bonus this year, Jeremy Katz from Ogilvy joined us to take it all in. The self-described hackathon skeptic emerged a true convert. “I was surprised and inspired by not just the amount of work done, but the energy, the teamwork, and the problem solving that I saw.” One particular project Katz enjoyed was the Coffee Rocket, “…a beautiful cold brew tower [that] is a physical manifestation of the ethos of this place: methodical, caffeinated, magnificently engineered, and without bitterness.”


Key takeaways

Many worry about putting passion projects ahead of regular work for any period. But our experience continues to show that these 24 hours away yields both indirect and direct benefits for our company and our clients.

“The point of Rocket Science is to give our passionate, talented team the freedom to explore without any constraints. What they come up with, time and again, is breakthroughs in thinking and emerging technology. Plus, renewed energy and inspiration – of course this feeds us as individuals, and it also ultimately makes our work better for the clients we serve,” said Carter.

Lead Android Engineer, Luke Wallace, assembling a 3D printed robotic hand.

Lead Android Engineer, Luke Wallace, assembling a 3D printed robotic hand.


EVP of Innovation, Matt Johnson, hammering a nail into two boards in a VR construction set.

EVP of Innovation, Matt Johnson, hammering a nail into two boards in a VR construction set.


The force is strong with this Rocketeer as he tests a VR Lightsaber simulator.

The force is strong with this Rocketeer as he tests a VR Lightsaber simulator.


The possibilities that come from innovation labs like Rocket Science continue to make a difference not only in individual passion projects but in client work and beyond. Rapid iteration helps sift through ideas in record time to come up with game-changing pieces of technology. If you’re interested in running a hackathon for your brand, connect with Bottle Rocket’s innovation team to find out more.

April 7, 2016

Bottle Rocket Hosts First Ever Partner Hackathon

Recently, Bottle Rocket partnered with Ogilvy CommonHealth to host a Healthcare Hackathon. The event presented an opportunity for both Bottle Rocket and Ogilvy to explore various healthcare cases with the support of subject matter experts and refine them into actual executions.

During the two-day event, teams strategized and prototyped connected, wearable, and other mobile experiences for various health-related issues. Ogilvy CommonHealth members helped provide their expertise and shape each project. Together, we conceptualized some innovative solutions for the healthcare industry, centering around mobile and new technologies.

Here is a brief overview of the projects conceptualized during this Healthcare Hackathon:

Breathe Easy

The Breathe Easy platform connects asthma patients, physicians, and researchers to help alleviate the burden of asthma for millions of Americans. The platform would give over 32.6 million asthma patients an easy-to-use tool for managing asthma via individualized courses of action, reminders, and information about their air quality conditions in their area. It also provides physicians the means to manage asthma patients under their care with clear insight by viewing history of their patient’s asthma attacks.


Myo Health

The Myo Armband is a wearable set of sensors designed to measure arm movement and track gestures through EMG. The team set out to test the accuracy and sensitivity of these sensors and whether the data was meaningful in relation to everything from fitness fatigue to rehabilitation tracking.  With regular data sourced from a large set of patients with a condition, it could give new insights to researchers looking for a cure and physicians administering better medications and treatments.


Healthy Habits

With the Healthy Habits app, people can theoretically discover and start a new journey to a healthier life by understanding health conditions and learning habits that can provide preventive solutions. The app encourages engagement with small awards, motivations, community support, and information for long term benefit based on the user’s specific health issues. Each milestone also includes essential information that people can use to progress and visualize their journey map progress – habit name, frequency, duration, etc.


Connected Healthcare

This project concentrated on having a single place for all of a family’s health and food-related goals and preferences. This application makes juggling healthcare needs easier by scanning and storing information about deals and suggest a healthy food replacement option if needed. Users can link this information to smart devices, Apple TV,  Chromecast, and others to see what they bought and how they can cook with it. As an additional bonus, the device profiles any age and profiles for peace of mind, trends, milestones, and general care coordination.


“Hackathons have always been a core part of Bottle Rocket’s Culture that drives out our pure passion for creating,” stated Matt Johnson, EVP of Innovation. “Brainstorming and rapid prototyping with a short timeline can spur the flow of ideas and lead to some incredible results.”

Other Rocketeers commented on gathering inspiration from their team, projects, and collaborating with our friends at Ogilvy in such a diverse sector.

“Access to subject matter experts is invaluable, especially when working in the healthcare sector,” said Rocketeer Sam Wilson. “Few other industries are…as huge and complex.”

Thank you to our partners from Ogilvy CommonHealth for making ideas for improving lives come to life with their Healthcare expertise. If you’re interested in partnering together on a future hackathon, please contact the innovation team.

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