All Aboard for Dundee HackU VI

A happy hacker

YDN was back in Dundee, Scotland recently for the 6th Annual HackU there. This year we partnered with Mozilla to provide the students with even more inspiration for their hacks. The relationship that we have with the University of Dundee is unique because our Hack program is integrated with the curriculum. This means that the hacks that the students produce are graded and count towards their final grade for their 3rd year Internet Programming module. This commitment from the University means a lot to us and we always try to put on a first class event for them. It's always a pleasure to be at Dundee Uni to see what their talented students will come up with next.

The program started back in February with a video conference with the students to set the scene for their challenge. We explain the concept of a hack event, tell them all about Yahoo!'s wonderful developer technologies, and show them examples of the sorts of hacks that we've seen before. After that, they had 6 weeks to come up with a concept and build a working prototype to present to us in Dundee.

As usual, the students didn't fail to impress. We got a broad variety of hacks ranging from a twitter controlled train-set to a Tsunami warning center.

Here's an overview of just a few of the great hacks that we saw.

The winning team with their train-set

Arduino/Twitter Controlled Trainset by James Bennet, Ross Warren and Jane Wilson

This hack won the Best in Show prize, which included an expenses paid trip to the Yahoo! EU Open Hack in Bucharest on May 14th-15th, where the team will have the opportunity to compete against other teams from all across Europe. This ingenious hack involved a model train-set that could be controlled by tweets containing the hash tag #therunawaytweet. The core components of the hack included a control centre on a Laptop which enabled full control of the train and virtual timetable which showed the current schedule for the train. It also used an Arduino chip that was connected to sensors that allowed it to know the location of the train on the track. Incoming tweets are displayed on the time table and on an iPhone billboard at the station, which allows us to see where the train is going to go next and when it will next be at any particular station. Once a train arrives at a station, the virtual passenger, represented by their twitter avatar, is picked up and the system considers the request fulfilled.

We were impressed with how much time and effort had gone into this hack. Well done guys! Check out this video produced by the team:

MoodTune by Rachel Montague and Paciencia Canda

This hack analyzed users twitter streams to determine their current mood. It then uses this information to create a playlist that matches that mood. Here's how the team describe it:

The hope of MoodTune is simple, if the user is in a positive mood, provide a playlist that will ensure the positive mood is continued, if the user is in a negative mood provide a playlist that will lift this mood. An elegant solution that won the Best use of APIs award.

Project Hera by Andy Barratt

This hack won the Best Hardware Upgrade award. Hera is an old remote control airplane which was upgraded with new pitch and roll angle functionality thanks to a an Arduino chip. The information gleaned by the Arduino chip is displayed on a web page alongside Weather information form Yahoo!

There were lots of other great Dundee hacks for you to learn about over on the Universities Web site.

The judging was tough as usual, but we found our winners and they were duly rewarded. As always, no one at HackU walks away empty handed; there were HackU t-shirts for all and a generous bar tab to end the day in style. As usual we wrapped up a student in the bar receipt. It's amazing how far a tab will go up in Scotland. You couldn't wrap up a Smurf with the receipt for the same tab in London!

The students celebrating another HackU well done

Journeys End

Thanks to Andy Cobley, all the students, and the University of Dundee for another great hack day. It was good to meet you all and I look forward to seeing you again next year at Dundee HackU VII! Best of luck to James, Ross and Jane at the EU Open Hack in May. You guys will have a lot of fun there!