HackUTD, the first UT Dallas Hackathon, took place over the weekend of January 17 and 18. It started at 11 am on Saturday and lasted until late Sunday afternoon. The event was organized by the UT Dallas Student Chapter of the ACM (Association for Computer Machinery) with the goal of bringing together young coders from the UTD student body to design and develop web, mobile, and software applications using their knowledge and utilizing the skills they have curated in class and on their own.
The Hackathon took place in the UTDesign facilities at the Synergy Park North (SPN) building. According to Diem-Nhi Tran, the Director of HackUTD and Hackathon Affairs at ACM UTD, approximately 100-120 students signed up for the event. The student organized themselves into teams ranging from two to four participants on each team, totaling roughly 24 teams.
According to Ms. Tran, the Hackathon helped students learn how to work with others and helped expose the students to people with different interests, talents, and backgrounds. She also described the Hackathon as a “collaborative learning experience” and that it was one of the “best ways to throw oneself into a real world scenario.”
The UT Dallas ACM Student leaders (Izuchukwu Elechi, Diem-Nhi Tran, Michael Raibick and all of the other officers) put in countless hours to make the event a success. They also raised approximately $9,000 from various companies to offset the costs. Donors included Amazon Web Services, State Farm Insurance, Wolters Kluwer, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, and Verizon. The CS department contributed $1000 towards prize money. Students worked through the night, but in order to do so they needed a faculty mentor who would be present throughout the night. Dr. Ravi Prakash, Professor of Computer Science, graciously took the responsibility of being that faculty mentor.
The contestants were judged on innovation, creativity, technical complexity, sophistication, and design. Serving as judges were Prof. Janell Straach and Prof. John Cole from the CS department, Mr. Vidhyaprakash Ramachandran from Verizon, and Mr. Bernie Hirsch, Director of Software Development at Wolters Kluwer. Mentors from local companies were also present on-site to give advice about coding and design and to help the teams overcome minor technical difficulties.
First place was won by an app called Turbine, second place was won by Appster, and third place was taken by the website Fun Voyage. Turbine, the first place winner, is a music app that filters users’ Twitter news feed for less cluttered information on new artists and bands for new releases on YouTube, SoundCloud, and iTunes updates. Appster is an app that analyses the picture of an event flier taken by a user on a smart phone to determine the date, time and location of the event and then places this information on that user’s calendar. Fun Voyage is a website that lets one choose a destination; it then maps a route with special points of interest included based on availability and the amount of money one is willing to spend. The website was designed by a group of international students who were excited to be in America but were frustrated by how time consuming popular travel sites were becoming.
“This was a wonderful event that not only demonstrated how creative and knowledgeable our students are, it also showed how capable our student leaders are too,” said Dr. Gopal Gupta, Department Head of Computer Science. “The UT Dallas ACM student leaders conceived of the event, organized and even raised funds for it and they did this all on their own,” he added.
The UT Dallas ACM is planning to host more such events in the future, including another Hackathon in fall 2015.
The following photos were taken by Kenny Pham of Rocket Productions.
For more information on the UT Dallas ACM visit utdacm.co