Hackers at the University of Michigan wrapped up this year's HackU events with a set of complex hacks that harnessed artificial Intelligence, real-time analysis, and games. This is appropriate for a school that has garnered plenty of attention for their autonomous vehicles that fly, drive, and scoot. At UMich, it's perfectly normal to watch a student walk his autonomous Segway past mountains of empty pizza boxes.
Students were joined by Yahoo Engineers, Ted Drake, Asad Sheth, and Simon Tunbridge, for 24 hours of hacking, trivia questions, fattening food, caffeine, and StarCraft. The weather was crisp and sunny while the programmers were jovial and focused.
Jake Schwartz, Jack Wink, and Jason Berlinsky won first place for their hack Mouse Trap Analytics. These three hackers created a tool that allows site owners to watch a user's mouse movements in real time. While the interaction itself was impressive, what impressed the judges most was their attention to the bigger picture. From the very beginning this team focused on how to make something that scaled beyond hack day.
Mouse Trap Analytics used HTML5 Websockets, Node.Js, and MongoDB. I interviewed them around 8:00 a.m. to see how their hack was developing.
Second Place went to TeachMe, a hack by Hari Govardhanam and Sunny Arora. TeachMe allows a student to ask the phone a word based math problem and not only get the result, but also how the problem was broken down into variables and values. Other than using Google's text to speech APIs the two engineers built everything from scratch. This includes an artificial intelligence engine.
I also interviewed these guys as they were wrapping up the finishing touches to the project.
While the first two prizes went to hacks that tried to solve complex problems, Avishay and Alexandra Livne won third place for putting a polished new spin on the Flickr Mosaic concept. They also submitted a second hack, NameIt, that used some clever word analysis to generate appropriate categorization of research papers using term analysis and Wikipedia.
We also had an award for the hack that best embraced the challenges Yahoo! engineers and scientists work on daily. Browser Wars by Max Seiden, Adam Williams, and Forest Darling used classic video games to let multi-players fight each other while browsing a web page. Flying Ninja kicks could be just the ticket for increasing user engagement on Yahoo!
There were plenty of great hacks this week in Michigan. We also had great appreciation for BIG, wPath, and Four Color Words. These hacks concentrated on changing the browser, word association, and interpreting the art of Josef Albers.
The Fall HackU events have been quite an adventure. We went international with Madras, Delhi, and Jordan. Students from Carnegie Mellon won $10,000 at our Open Hack All Stars in New York. Join us next year when Yahoo! comes to your university(http://developer.yahoo.com/hacku/) with lots of food, caffeine, and hacking energy.