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HackUTD VI: 700 Students Use Their Imagination and CS Knowledge to Produce Unique Solutions for Real-World Problems

Last fall, over 700 students from across the nation came together for the 6th Annual HackUTD, a 24-hour hackathon organized and run by the UT Dallas Student Chapter of the ACM (Association for Computer Machinery) in partnership with the Major League Hacking (MLH) Organization. HackUTD VI was organized under the guidance of UT Dallas CS Professor John Cole, who serves as the ACM faculty sponsor. Like most hackathons, HackUTD provides a venue for self-expression and creativity through technology. People with varying technical backgrounds come together, form teams around a problem or idea, and collaboratively code a unique solution from scratch — these generally take shape in the form of websites, mobile apps, games, and even robots. This year’s projects varied from a Wireless Sensor Network for Green Farming, to a project that works to proactively predict potential fires in various US zip codes based on existing weather conditions and other factors, to a child-themed, multiplayer version of the game Space Invaders, which aims to occupy children on long flights and even to a web browser extension highlighting opinionated statements in articles, aimed at helping readers develop their own opinions by being notified when the opinions of others are pushed onto them.

HackUTD saw the highest number of hackers in its six-year history with over 700 participating students from all over the nation lining up out the door to participate in the 24-hour hackathon. Participants came not only from all over Texas but also from locations as far-flung as Canada, Florida, Oklahoma, Illinois, New York, Georgia, and California. This year’s hackathon also had the largest number of final projects with over 110 projects submitted for judging. Click here to view all of the HackUTD VI project submissions.

As one of the major collegiate hackathons, HackUTD has become the largest university hackathon in North Texas, attracting the very best students not only from Texas but from around the nation, as well as bringing in big-time tech sponsors such as American AirlinesAllstate,  CognizantCBRE Build,  FacebookFannie Mae,  Walmart Technology, AmadeusMatchESRI, JPMorgan Chase & Co.,  TaxActCyxteraCoreLogicFDM, Digital Boundary Group, GitHubSticker Mule18Tech VenturesMajor League Hacking (MLH), GitKraken, Digital OceanWolfram LanguageUT Dallas Office of Information Technology, and the UT Dallas Computer Science Department.

Once the hackathon officially started, attendees worked furiously on their projects. Throughout the 24-hours, attendees learn how to work with new technologies, throw together tons of code, and hopefully finish what they set out to build. In HackUTD’s case, those problems are presented in the form of challenges by tech sponsors. Sponsor challenges included CBRE’s “Best Hack to Drive Energy Efficiency in a Commercial Building,” MLH “Best Use of Google Cloud,” TaxAct’s “Best visualization website with TaxAct API,” and more. Students were able to compete in various tracks, including mobile, design, and hardware. HackUTD encourages students to use their imagination and knowledge of computer science to produce solutions that solve real-world problems by thinking outside the box. It also affords participants the freedom to learn new concepts, work with friends, step outside their comfort zone, all designed to showcase their skills.

HackUTD and hackathons, in general, serve as a powerful tool for students to build upon their past experiences with real hands-on activities while learning new skills and developing creative solutions using advanced technologies. During the 24-hour event, students were offered the option to attend various industry-led workshops involving tech talks hosted by the event sponsors in order to gain insight into the role of technology within their industry. Non-coding related activities also were offered along the way as a way to help students unwind and relax.

Many of the students stayed awake for the full 24-hours in order to finish their projects by noon on Sunday. Despite the near-complete lack of sleep, teams submitted their final projects on time. They subsequently spent two hours showcasing their ideas in a science-fair-like manner to a judging committee consisting of tech industry members, sponsor representatives, and UT Dallas faculty. HackUTD VI had its most significant number of final submissions in the history of the competition, with over 110 projects. Teams were judged on categories including uniqueness, technicality, viability, UI & UX design, complexity, usefulness, and impact factor. Winning teams in each challenge were awarded prizes. There were also prizes from each of the company sponsors. In total, this year’s prizes were valued at over $31,232. The prizes included a Nintendo Switch Lite, a Gaming Monitor, Xbox One S, Apple TV, Apple Airpod Pro, Beats Headphones, Amazon Echo Dot and Echo, Bose SoundLink Wireless Headphones, American Airlines AAdvantage Miles, Oculus Go VR Headsets, Keurig K-Classic Coffee Maker, Google Home Mini, Amazon gift cards, and more.

To view more photos from HackUTD VI, click here

The following are brief descriptions of first, second, and third place winning projects as well as winners of sponsor challenges at HackUTD VI:

First Place Wireless Sensor Network for Green Farming –  Siddharth Thakur

The Wireless Sensor Network for Green Farming is a cheap wireless and cost-effective sensor network that monitors the health and growth of agricultural fields to improve farming efficiency and decrease environmental impact. The sensor data will also allow farmers to see their crops growth over time, and monitor the fertility of the soil. The system is built using Moteino’s connected with Moteino weather shields to provide humidity and internal temperature values. The circuit was created using easyEDA, and simulated it with LTSPICE, using circuit analysis and electronic protocols to perform the math for the passive components. The Moteino Gateway Dashboard software system was used to create the dashboard, while the server was built with Nginx structure on flask and uWSGI to access the dashboard from any computer. The Vegetronix VH400 soil moisture sensors were used as the soil moisture sensors. The circuit was built using a breadboard for the circuit and jumper and alligator clips to connect most everything.

Second Place – Healthcair – Mohammed Alnasser,  Samuel Warfield, Fisher Darling, and Madeline McKune

Healthcair is an all in one solution for setting up costs related to expensive, medical procedures. Be it replacing your grandmother’s hip, having laser eye surgery, or even getting braces, Healthcair will optimize your flights and hotel stays, and give you the best quotes for one’s procedure. Healthcair is built with a React front-end and a back-end hosted on the Google Cloud Platform. The end result is serverless, using App Engine and GCP Cloud Functions to process queries. By leveraging standardized JSON calls Healthcair has both a web interface and a work-in-progress React Native app.

Third Place – Pothole Project –  Nicholas Tindle, Sebastian King, Ben Taylor, Tyler Adam Martinez, and Sebastian King

This project automatically detects potholes through two methods, computer vision and using a hardware-based solution consisting of vibration sensors. It then captures that image of the pothole and sends it along with an auto-generated report to the Texas Department of Transportation. The auto-generated report is auto-filled with the image of the pothole, and the GPS location of where the pothole was found. Finally, using SendGrid the python script will send you an email confirmation of the program auto-generated report. The project included a raspberry pi, a piezo vibration sensor, a GPS USB module, and a Logitech camera. The GPS module sensors input data into the raspberry pi. and the pi runs a python scripts that determine if you hit a pot, and if so, it will automatically create and send a report to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Winners of the sponsor challenges include:

  • Best Use of Amadeus API & Best Use of Amadeus API for Social Good – GTFO – Get The Flights Outta(here)! GTFO is a flask web application and corresponding Amazon Alexa skill that can be used to create group travel events for UT Dallas students.
  • Best Use of Amadeus API & Best Use of Amadeus API for Social Good – Healthcair  Healthcair is an all in one solution for setting up costs related to expensive, medical procedures. Be it replacing your grandmother’s hip, having laser eye surgery, or even getting braces, Healthcair will optimize your flights and hotel stays, and give you the best quotes for one’s procedure.
  • American Airlines Flight Engine   FlightTrackAR An Augmented Reality Application For Seeing Realtime Commercial Plane Flight Data.
  • American Airlines Flight Engine  Operation Midnight Booze This application streamlines the drink ordering process on American Airlines flights. It consists of two user interfaces: one for the customer and one for the stewards. The customer interface allows the user to purchase a drink for their flight, while the steward interface allows them to see which flyers have already ordered a drink. Therefore if a customer has already purchased a drink they don’t have to go through the struggle of communicating what they want with the flight attendant.
  • American Airlines Flight Engine – Journey (SardinePackerExtreme) aka GetOffFaster  – A new way to book and check-in for flights, mathematically the fastest way to board and deplane. Using Mathematically proven and published research, we implemented an optimal solution that accounts for limited grouping, baggage loading and unloading delays, priority passengers with handicaps and families and luggage load balancing.
  • CBRE: Best Hack to Drive Energy Efficiency in a Commercial Building –  Rouxy the Make-able Router – Prototyping tech should be accessible. People would get the ability to use innovations, and new ideas get shared. This project enables new builders from low-income communities to innovate.
  • CBRE: Best Hack to Drive Energy Efficiency in a Commercial Building   Weather-based Building Power Management – In today’s society, we are concerned with energy conservation. Our app strives to increase energy efficiency for buildings by using weather data collected by GIS and building data with explainable AI.
  • Cognizant: Best Text Objectivity Analysis – Newtral – The Neutral News Filter – Reading the news can be overwhelming and intimidating at times. It’s hard to tell what is fact and what is opinion. With Newtral, the app brings the viewer’s attention to the facts.
  • Cognizant: Best Text Objectivity Analysis  Inform – A Chrome extension that lets you perform sentiment analysis on any webpage with just a click. It allows you to identify emotive text in order to stay better informed quickly.
  • Cognizant: Best Text Objectivity Analysis – That’s Just Facts – A browser extension highlighting opinionated statements in articles, aimed at helping readers develop their own opinions by being notified when the opinions of others are pushed onto them.
  • Cognizant: Best Text Objectivity Analysis – News Unchained – News Unchained is a browser extension that removes bias from news and research articles. It allows the user to utilize functions such as highlighting and strike-throughs to display biased text in an article.
  • Best Use of ESRI Technology  Pothole Project This project automatically detects potholes through two methods, computer vision and using a hardware-based solution consisting of vibration sensors. It then captures that image of the pothole and sends it along with an auto-generated report to the Texas Department of Transportation. The auto-generated report is auto-filled with the image of the pothole, and the GPS location of where the pothole was found. Finally, using SendGrid the python script will send you an email confirmation of the program auto-generated report.
  • FannieMae: FinLiteracy and DataScience  CreditLife – The objective of this app is to educate high school and college students on the importance of building credit. This game provides an interactive way to learn these essential financial literacy concepts.
  • FannieMae: FinLiteracy and DataScience  FinLit Quiz – This app picks a random financial literacy question from the bank, and you have to guess the definition/answer.
  • FannieMae: FinLiteracy and DataScience  Fannie Displae – This app utilizes data visualization and modeling with modern UI for predicting the performance of loans in the housing market.
  • MLH- Best UiPath Automation Hack  Pothole Project  This project automatically detects potholes through two methods, computer vision and using a hardware-based solution consisting of vibration sensors. It then captures that image of the pothole and sends it along with an auto-generated report to the Texas Department of Transportation. The auto-generated report is auto-filled with the image of the pothole, and the GPS location of where the pothole was found. Finally, using SendGrid the python script will send you an email confirmation of the program auto-generated report.
  • MLH- Best Use of Google Cloud – Smart Closet – This app is designed for those who are color-blind. The Smart Closet app helps users stress less about how you dress.
  • MLH- Best Domain Using Domain.com  Scoob Invaders – This is a kid-themed, multiplayer version of the game Space Invaders that aims to occupy children on long flights.
  • MLH- Best Use of MongoDB Atlas  SkyMaster – SkyMaster uses NLP, which paves the way for easy-to-use interface and gives the end-user on the other side of the screen the experience of having a conversation, as opposed to going through a limited set of options and menus to get answers to their questions.
  • MLH- Best Use of Twilio – BAC-Home – In 2018, there were 10,511 deaths related to drunk driving. BAC-Home helps to prevent these avoidable tragedies by empowering both businesses and individuals to make the right choice – driving safe. BAC-Home is an Android application that can run on both Android phones and Tablets. It connects to a portable BACtrack breathalyzer, which, when used, gets the Blood Alcohol Content or BAC of that person. BAC-Home then takes the BAC and evaluates it to determine whether the user is safe to drive or not. If they are not safe to drive, BAC-Home then gives them an Uber voucher (provided by a business owner or organization leader), so they can ride back home safely. It is a tool for businesses and organizations to promote safe drinking and provide a reliable option to check whether someone is safe to drive or not.
  • JPMorgan Chase: Best Hack for Social Good  Firefall – The FireFall project aims to proactively predict potential fires in various US zip codes based on existing weather conditions and other factors. In this project, the FireFall team was able to acquire some data from Kaggle related to weather.
  • JPMorgan Chase: Best Hack for Social Good  Wireless Sensor Network for Green Farming – Wireless Sensor Network for Green farming is a cheap and cost-effective solution that promotes and drives effective agricultural irrigation for small farmers.
  • Cyxtera: Develop an innovative solution to a real-world problem  Firefall – The FireFall project aims to proactively predict potential fires in various US zip codes based on existing weather conditions and other factors. In this project, the FireFall team was able to acquire some data from Kaggle related to weather.
  • Cyxtera: Develop an innovative solution to a real-world problem – Skyrt – This app keeps track of past flights, provides suggestions for new flights, shows flight paths, and shows heat maps of most popular places. The app aims to get millennials to skrt skrt to new and exciting places with American Airlines through beautiful integration with ESRI APIs.
  • Best visualization website with TaxAct API – Taxalytics – An interactive visualization of Tax Act’s API data using ESRI maps.
  • Student Government: “Virtual Reality for UTD Application” (Challenge was available only to UT Dallas Students)  Chance of Romance  – A lighthearted dating sim parody that teaches players to balance finances with their personal college life. This is a text-based romance game where the player selects choices and evaluates consequences. This game also helps with financial literacy. It is a web app game that runs on HTML.
  • UT Dallas Student Government: “Virtual Reality for UTD Application” ( Challenge was only available to UT Dallas Students)  Xperience UTD [3D] – Xperience UT Dallas allows incoming students who are unable to visit the campus the ability to experience what UT Dallas is like for students. Students are provided with insight into the actual sizing and space available in rooms and ratings of classrooms based on the quality of seating, A/C, and outlet availability. This resource can play a significant role in student life at UT Dallas because of the components it has to offer.
  • UT Dallas Student Government: “Virtual Reality for UTD Application” ( Challenge was only available to UT Dallas Students)  Orbit – Orbit is an iOS RealityKit application designed to promote student engagement at UT Dallas through its immersive features and rewards system – Across UT Dallas, there are a plethora of bulletin boards that are walked past by thousands of students each day. Regardless of all this traffic, however, it is very rare for students to stop and scan flyers and notices of events during the hectic rush between classes. The process of finding a flyer appealing, reading through the details of the event, and adding the event to your calendar commonly takes too long for students trying to rush to their next class. With Orbit, a simple scan of a flyer can allow users to view details of an event on the go, and even add it to the calendar on their phone! Using extended reality technology, we hope to promote student engagement at UT Dallas and encourage a positive campus culture.

ABOUT THE UT DALLAS COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT

The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 3,315 bachelors-degree students, more than 1,110 master’s students, 165 Ph.D. students,  52 tenure-track faculty members, and 44 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2019. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.

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