Mobile app contestants get creative

Situated in a classroom around a table covered with energy drinks, soda and energy shots, coders were hard at work at UHack, a 48-hour hackathon held last weekend in the McArthur Engineering Building.

Starting Friday, participants were given two days to create their own web or mobile app.

The hackathon, which was hosted by the Association for Computer Mechanics (ACC) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), was the first ever held at UM.

Apps were then presented on Sunday to a panel of judges made up of faculty members. They were evaluated for their productivity, originality and user experience.

“A lot of us intern at companies that hold hackathons so instead of doing it for the first time there, we wanted to bring it here so people have an opportunity to gain experience,” said junior Oscar Sanchez, who organized the event.

While 28 people registered, many elected to work in teams so 10 apps were created at the event.

Sophomores Adam Orshan, Thomas Cooper and Colin Francis worked together on an app that would transcribe your phone call and highlight important information like dates and times.

While they are familiar with coding, they were writing the program in a different coding language than they were used to.

“It’s like trying to write a 10-page paper in French when you only know Spanish,” Orshan said.

The team said they relied on Redbull energy drinks and adrenaline to keep working throught the contest.

Other participants made sure they had time for a power nap.

Seniors Wei Yang and Omar Hussain, who were awarded first place, brought sleeping bags and an air mattress, and were able to get about five hours sleep on the first night.

The winners built a mobile app that creates different pitches when the phone is moved, allowing it to be used as a musical instrument.

They won a MacBook Air, $500 and a year-long membership to GitHub, a social website for coding.

“This is our first time at a hackathon so we had a lot of trouble,” Hussain said.

Junior Christopher Jacobs earned second place for his app, Musicon. The program generates a playlist based on party attendees and their musical interests.

Jacobs received a Xbox Kinect Bundle, a year-long membership to Xbox Live and GitHub, Xbox games, and $250.

Sponsors of the event, such as Microsoft, had representatives come in to help participants with their coding issues along the way.

“For a lot of people this is their first time at an event like this, so to work together quickly under the time pressure is difficult,” Sanchez said.

April 1, 2012


Jackie Salo

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