Hundreds of coders reveal good side of hacking
Ross Johnstal’s app Velocity—which aims to speed up online song discovery—took top honors from among 48 teams at OHI/O, The Ohio State University’s largest hackathon. The electrical and computer engineering major was one of more than 200 students from nine universities who converged on campus October 3-5 for the coding and technology event.
The hackathon aims to foster a tech culture at Ohio State, explained OHI/O organizers Arnab Nandi, assistant professor of computer science and engineering; and Meris Mandernach, associate professor in University Libraries.
“This is one of the most intensive learning experiences a student can have,” Nandi said. “You’re learning in a peer environment that is competitive, but also highly cooperative.”
Fueled by more than 65 gallons of coffee and 45 pounds of apples and snacks, students had 36 hours to create a new app, website or software that solves a problem or meets a marketplace need.
“We wanted this to be a healthy Hackathon,” Nandi said. “We extended it to 36 hours so that people could rest during the event and not have to spend 24 hours straight working on stuff.”
The event kicked off on Friday, October 3 with a technology talk by Persistent Systems CEO Sanjay Karmarkar. The top 10 teams demonstrated their projects and competed for $5,000 in prizes at a Sunday morning showcase.
Ohio State students claimed the top four awards. Johnstal took home a Parrot AR 2.0 drone and an Arduino starter kit for his winning internet radio application. Velocity speeds up music finding by playing 30 second clips of music by a specific artist or a similar one the user might like. The app lets users create a list of preferred tunes and import it into a Spotify playlist where they can listen to the full-length versions.
“I find hackathons exciting because it gives me an opportunity to sit down and program and code and end up with a pretty-much finished project at the end,” said Johnstal, who was also part of the winning team for the university’s 2013 hackathon. “Otherwise with busy schoolwork and other student groups I’m involved in, it’s kind of hard to find the time to sit down and complete a project.”
Second place went to team Whole Grain’s Locus, a location-specific reminders and notes app, while team CheckIn won third check-in enabler tool that uses location beacons to check in to a class, flight or even the doctor. Fourth place went to team Big Data’s EnQme app, which offers a more mobile alternative to the black buzzers given to restaurant patrons as they wait for a table.
Awards were also given to the projects judged most technically challenging, most creative, most useful, best demo and most popular (as determined by voting). Faculty and industry professionals from across the university and local companies judged projects based on technical difficulty, creativity, usefulness and presentation.
Dozens of industry professionals and software engineers from local companies as well as national names like Google and EPIC, provided round-the-clock mentoring to students and attended the talent and technology showcase.
OHI/O was organized by The Ohio State University Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University Libraries, The STEAM Factory and the Open Source Club. Sponsors included Persistent Systems, The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and College of Engineering, Tata Consultancy Services and Google.
Plans for a 2015 hackathon are currently underway.