SciTech

TartanHacks embodies creativity of CMU students

PokeFriends! presents their app, which plays a custom version of “PokeRap.” (credit: Josh Smith) PokeFriends! presents their app, which plays a custom version of “PokeRap.” (credit: Josh Smith) The team Tourgeni.us presents their trip planner project.  (credit: Josh Smith) The team Tourgeni.us presents their trip planner project. (credit: Josh Smith)

The Super Bowl is one of the largest competitive spectacles of the year in the United States. But at Carnegie Mellon, that distinction may go to TartanHacks. The hackathon — organized by app development student organization ScottyLabs — kicked off for the third year last Friday to a barrage of electronic dance music, free t-shirts, and food for participants.

For approximately 24 hours straight, various teams, comprised of up to four students from a variety of majors, work throughout the Gates Hillman Complex and Newell-Simon Hall to craft new applications and software tools. What they build is open-ended: The teams’ creative energies drive what they make within the timespan of the competition.

“This year we’re expecting 300 participants and about 75 teams,” said senior decision science and human-computer interaction double major and TartanHacks organizer Quintin Carlson.

The opening ceremony last Friday at 5:30 p.m. consisted of demos of various tools and application programming interfaces (APIs) presented by the event’s sponsors, which included Dropbox, GoDaddy, Bloomberg, Andreessen Horowitz, Dwolla, Jawbone, Capital One, Delphix, APT, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon Web Services, and Goldman Sachs.

Throughout the hackathon, sponsors from the various companies and TartanHacks organizers were available to the participating teams to help them with any technical issues.

As the primary sponsor of the hackathon, Dropbox was represented by software engineers and alumni Sang Tian (SCS ‘13) and Nipunn Koorapati (ECE ‘13).

“Personally I really enjoy coming back mainly because I get to meet my former students again,” Tian said, who was a teaching assistant while at Carnegie Mellon. “I taught for five semesters, so you know a lot of people and it’s a really great experience seeing everyone. I miss the college days sometimes.”

Demos began Saturday evening after the hacking deadline of 6 p.m. Each team had 75 seconds to talk about its hack and demonstrate it for the audience and judges. The judging panel consisted of TartanHacks organizers, sponsor representatives, and faculty members.

Plenty of teams made creative and often humorous hacks. Team PokeFriends! created an app that, after a user logs in with Facebook, plays a custom-version “PokeRap” from the Pokémon television show, only it replaces the list of Pokémon with the user’s Facebook friends. Team The Cake is a Lie created Coincidence?, an app that uses Facebook to find funny subliminal messages, such as “canadaisnotreal,” by selecting random letters from your Facebook friends’ posts.

Some of the teams had similar ideas that were implemented differently. Two hacks, Block Market and DineXchange (which won an award from the Bloomberg representatives), strove to create a marketplace where students could sell and trade unused meal blocks and DineX with each other.

Also popular were applications that translate text to the phrasing used in Internet meme Doge.

Senior information systems and human-computer interaction double major and ScottyLabs director Julia Teitelbaum started the awards ceremony by announcing the recipients of the First Penguin Award. The award, inspired by the award given out by former professor of computer science and human-computer interaction and The Last Lecture author Randy Pausch, is given to the riskiest and most interesting — while not necessarily functional — creation.

The winner of the award was the team The Camel for its application (s)hopbox, a webcam-based game that can be found at shopbox.herokuapp.com.

The first prize winner was the PuzzlePal team. Its hack — an application that not only digitizes an image of a crossword puzzle, but solves the puzzle in a short amount of time based on the clues for each row and column — netted the team the top prize.

Overall, TartanHacks gave hundreds of students the opportunity and motivation to create interesting and innovative applications. The event showed the incredible skills, talents, and drive of the Carnegie Mellon community.


1st Place: PuzzlePal
Siddharth Dhulipalla, Jonathan Goldman, Harsh Pandey

2nd Place: NAFWA
Bram Wasti, Stefan Dasbach, Michael O'Farrell

3rd Place: Fabricate.io
Todd Medema, Scott Martin, Hillary Mellin, Nicholas Coronado

Andreesen Horowitz: NAFWA
Bram Wasti, Stefan Dasbach, Michael O'Farrell

Apple: Anchor
Phineas Taylor-Webb, Ajay Ravindran, Yaakov Lyubetsky, Ryan Flood

Microsoft: TeX Team
Will Crichton, Maryyann Landlord, Patrick Xia, James Yang

Facebook: uStudy
Lucy Guo, Nive Jayasekar, Sebrand Warren, Angela Zang

Bloomberg: Stever4
Robert Maratos, Jacob Weiss, Kevin Reichek, Jeremy Sonpar

GoDaddy: The Countable Irrationals
Maya Rau-Murthy, Ashley Lai, Tian Jin, Mukund Tibrewala

Capital One: RPFTG
Alex Mermelstein, Esther Wang, Ivan Wang, Jun Huo

Amazon Web Services: Fabricate.IO & Gitorial
Fabricate.IO: Todd Medema, Scott Martin, Hillary Mellin, Nicholas Coronado
Gitorial: Westin Lohne, Jake Zimmerman, Shyam Raghavan, Aaron Gutierrez

Jawbone: Philanthrofit
Maya Lassiter, Ann Chen, Meena Gupta-Iwasaki, Preeti Gondi

Dwolla: Philanthrofit
Maya Lassiter, Ann Chen, Meena Gupta-Iwasaki, Preeti Gondi