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Computer Science, Software Engineering Students Design Prize-Winning Projects at Collegiate Hackathon Events

May 6, 2014

Hack Team 1

Hackathon Winners: Computer science and software engineering students (from left) Neil Semmel, Frank Roetker, Dax Earl, and Jeffrey Carter combined to create Easy AMA, a web app designed that earned first-place honors at Penn State University’s HackPSU event. They formed the idea for their product during the nine-hour road trip to the event. (Photo by Dale Long)

     Rose-Hulman computer science and software engineering students showcased their programming and design skills to develop prize-winning mobile applications, websites, and hardware technology at collegiate hackathon events at Penn State University, Yale University, University of Illinois and Purdue University.

     Hackathons are 24- to 36-hour events providing software programmers, computer code writers, graphic designers, and marketers to collaborate for the creation of their own software and hardware products, called a “hack.”

     Juniors Jeffrey Carter, Frank Roetker, and Neil Semmel joined with sophomore Dax Earl to win Penn State’s HackPSU, and $2,500, with Easy AMA, a web app designed to allow people to easily manage their Ask-Me-Anythings (AMAs) on Reddit. The user is able to create an AMA, view and reply to questions and replies from other users, and view statistics about their AMA.

     The Easy AMA application was built by using NodeJS, AngularJS, and ExpressJS, along with Python and ZeroMQ for additional processing and inter-process communication (IPC) message handling.

     Then, at Illinois, Earl teamed with junior Tayler Burns, and sophomores Aaron Golliver and Mason Schneider to create IncenToLearn, a website that allows parents to provide incentives for their children to learn, while keeping track of their child's education. The product won the Most Innovative Use of the Wolfram Technology Stack prize and was one of 10 teams to earn the Most Creative Use of the Firebase API award.

     Carter and Roetker joined sophomore James Butler and junior Chad Jones at Illinois’ event to form Spindl, a product that allows users to easily control all the small transactions in their everyday life by sending a simple text message; enables businesses to more easily connect their customers with their products; and allows businesses to easily create cashless payment solutions. It won the Best Use of the Dwolla API award and was one of the 10 firebase award winners.

     There were two prize-winning teams at Purdue’s BoilerMake: Team PartyHub, consisting of juniors John McCormack and Francis Meng, sophomore Isaac Sanders, and Jones; and Team League of Data, with members Burns, Earl, Golliver, and Schneider. A total of 23 Rose-Hulman students participated among the over 400 students from 17 colleges.

     Then, senior Ryne Bell joined Daniel and Schneider in winning a prize for most creative use of the database query computer language HTSQL at Yale’s 24-hour Y-Hack, an event that attracted international teams.

     “Rose-Hulman has prepared us for the pressure-packed situations at hackathon events,” says Roetker. “We’re able to solve problems, write programs and prepare a finished product in a competitive situation.”

     Carter adds, “It’s a lot of fun applying the skills that you have learned in class, and see where we stack up against other college student programmers.”

     “As engineers, we like to solve problems,” Earl states. “These hackathons push us to the limits of our technical and personal skills. In many cases, the teams are formed hours before the competition, during the trip to the host college, and we’re thrown into a challenging situation. It’s great to come out on top.”

     Sanders says “BoilerMake was a great opportunity for students to be creative, maybe win a prize, and talk to companies (34 sponsors, including Apple and Google) that are hiring interns.”

     A new Rose-Hulman Hackers Club has been formed on campus to encourage and support students participating in national collegiate competitions.