Dundee University Hack Day 2010

On March 26, the University Hack team UK (Chris Heilmann, Steve Marshall, and Ian Pouncey) went to Dundee, Scotland, to crown the winners of this year's Uni Hack Challenge.

Dundee hack day

In contrast to the 24-hour hack events we do in the United States, the Dundee hack is part of the students' course deliveries. It will be marked by the professors as much as honoured by us. This makes it easier for us as we do an introductory session, some feedback sessions, and then go up to pick the winners. It also means that students are asked to work together in groups rather than do a 24-hour, one-man-army marathon.

The yield of hacks this year was pretty impressive. What stood out especially for us was the range they covered:

  • A system that automatically closes all your browsing tabs and replaces them with the Yahoo! homepage when someone opens the door
  • Software that allows you to use an android phone as a game controller
  • A visualization of all the APIs and their overlap in usage on programmableweb.com
  • A translation proxy

These were just a few of the things that got our attention. In the end, we picked the following winners:

  • Arkive by James Mclaren, Jonathan Kershaw and Shazia Akbar - a search interface for your browser history. Arkive, a Firefox extension similar to Mozilla Weave, syncs your history over various computers and gives you a searchable archive with natural-language detection like "show me the last 10 photos of Paris".
  • What are you talking about by Jonathan Fairfull, Ronald Gay, and Mark Mackercher - a proxy service to translate web sites for you into different languages. We were most impressed with the extent of the hack as it checks for keywords and allows you to translate them, and offers full paragraph translation and bidirectional support for Arabic and Hebrew.
  • Incognitab by Ross Arnott and James Cuthbert - an Arduino hack that closes your current browsing session when someone opens the door to your room and replaces it with the Yahoo! homepage.
  • Remote Droid Pad by Roberto Silva, Pedro Graça, and Diogo Rodrigues is a hack to allow you to play a racing game on your computer using your Android phone as a game controller.

All in all the competition was tough and, when we counted the votes, the winners were very close to another. The students of Dundee can be proud of what has been achieved in a short period. We look forward to seeing what will be done with the hacks shown to us. Be sure to check the close contenders, like the Microsoft Surface Last FM mashup, the automatic travel Twitter update hack, and the information overlay for web sites.

Chris Heilmann @codepo8
Developer Evangelist, Yahoo Developer Network