Father-son team 'hacks' way to victory in 2-state contest

Sunday, April 12, 2015 1:00 am | Updated: 1:09 am, Sunday, April 12, 2015

By Scott Roberts sroberts@reporter-times.com
(as it appeared in the Reporter-Times)

Reporter-Times article MARTINSVILLE — Martinsville resident John Schevola is going to Disney World.

No, Schevola did not win the NFL championship, but he did win a championship of sorts in the technology world.

Schevola and his son Isaiah, a junior at Indian Creek High School, won the Indiana Texas Civic Hackathon, taking first the state championship in Indiana, then advancing to the dual state competition, where he won as well. The hackathon is a first of its kind challenge between the two states, where tech developers from Indiana and Texas competed to design the best digital applications to serve citizens.

“It was a complete and total surprise,” Schevola said. “When Isaiah and I submitted our application, I tweeted out that it was a great team effort with my son. The other apps looked really crisp, so I was astonished when we won at the state level, let alone the national level.”

Part of his winnings included $8,000, which Schevola said he’d use to take his family to Disney World, since they had never gone.

“We decided that would be fun, and it’s something we’ve wanted to do,” Schevola said.

Schevola said he heard about the challenge through an email from Western Governors University Indiana, where he’s studying to complete his bachelor’s degree in software development. He decided it would be good experience to enter the competition, and quickly formed a team.

“But everyone bailed on us,” Schevola said. “I thought it would be a good idea to continue and see what happens.”

So he and his son did the work themselves. There were two challenges Schevola could choose from, and Schevola and his son chose to work with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. Their challenge was to develop a method to register groups and create a checklist of available services people might need after a disaster, creating a “one-stop shop.”

“It was helping people out in a time of need, and since we both do a lot of volunteer work, we thought it would be more suitable for us,” Schevola said.

Schevola said he worked with local organizations that provide assistance, trying to go above and beyond and get as many people in on the development as possible. Schevola said he had a set of specific instructions of places to go for housing, food, cleaning up property, replacing driver’s licenses or other needs.

“We wanted to streamline the process. Have a personalized checklist on a computer. If you said yes to any of these questions, go here.”

Schevola said the goal was to make it dynamic, so agencies can register easily and it will work on a mobile phone.

There were many details to working on the app, and when the weekend of the deadline arrived, he and his son worked tirelessly to get it finished in time.

“It was tough to get it done in the time constraints we had, but my son was great,” Schevola said. “Although he was new to the field of programming, he worked a lot with the HTML and CSS. That last weekend, I think we went 40 hours with no sleep, from 6 a.m. Saturday to Sunday night, when we submitted the final application.”

Schevola said working with his son was the most rewarding experience.

“I don’t know many 17-year-olds that want to work with their parents,” he said. “I was extremely proud. He did anything I told him to do.”

Schevola received a number of accolades for winning both the state and multistate competitions. He got recognition where he works at AT&T; a year’s worth of free classes on entrepreneurship and how to run a business from TechPoint, which helped sponsor the competition; a year’s subscription to Speakeasy business services; and $8,000.

Schevola said he hopes to continue working for AT&T after he receives his degree, as the company helped pay his way, and he loves working there. He hopes this experience will help him get more into application development, where he wants to be.

“It was great working with my son, great fun, and something for him to put on his college apps,” Schevola said. “I joined it just for the experience, but I got a lot more.”

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