University of Texas HackU Recap

From March 23rd to 26th the HackU team was out at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas. Much like we have for other hack events, we had a series of talks to start out the event, covering a number of topics, including:

On the second day we were lucky to have Yahoo! guest speakers Seth Radin and Mrinalini Kurup present a "women in tech" talk, showing the innovation in the tech industry that's being driven by women in the field. Following that, we had guest speaker Douglas Crockford for one of his iconic JavaScript talks. I still think that Douglas should include Crockford Facts in all of his talks, like this particular gem:

Crockford Facts

We had a great line-up of talks this year. Hacking began Friday at noon and went until noon on Saturday. It was a night full of interesting problems and solutions, and at the end of the 24 hours we were left with many great hacks.

Rasmus guest-starring at HackU Austin
HackU Prizes!

Douglas Crockford presenting with style
Team Recipe Finder

The Winners

There were around 20 hacks submitted at UT this year, with about 50-60 students who presented. They presented some great hacks, as well as many projects with great practical applications in the real world. Of all the hacks, there were three stand-out projects that placed in the top three.

First Prize: PhoneSlice

"PhoneSlice" was a wonderful hack that was chock full of technology. Their team -- Farhad Abasov, Michael Teng and Michael Aikilian -- were working with ActionScript and Objective C to create an innovative look for a popular mobile game, Fruit Ninja. With a main Flash application, they created a proxy server to communicate between two iPhones and the Flash application. One iPhone would be used to throw the fruit and the other to slice it.

Because of the implementation difficulties involved in communicating between an iPhone and Flash and all of the custom technology that they had to build within the 24-hour period, they won the HackU event and took home new iPads.

Second Prize: /yell

There was a lot of debate among the judge to decide the second and third place winners, resulting in a very close vote. In the end, the team of Aaron Stolarz, Russell Bicknell, and Joey Mangieri, creators of the "/yell" hack, took the second place spot. This hack allowed users within a close radius to quickly post out messages about what they're doing or events that are going on. We've seen similar hacks before, but in addition to the standard features, the team also created a browser extension that made the service embeddable within a specific site. What this means is that when you're browsing a site like Reddit, for instance, you can use the service to communicate with other Redditors in your geographic vicinity.

The extension and amount of integrated technology really sealed this second place win for us. They took home iPod Nanos.

Third Prize: No Time for this Logic Scheduler

Albert Rondan and Nick Shelton on the "No Time for this Logic Scheduler" hack took the third place with their class scheduler. We've seen many class schedulers over the years, but these guys really stepped it up and set a new bar. Baking in the ability to search for schedules to avoid overlapping classes, they also included filters in the product to enable sorting by criteria such as time. Now you can find the perfect schedule that avoids those pesky early morning classes.

The members of this team took home $50 Amazon gift cards.

Best of Hacks

Originally we had two "best of" hack categories, one for mobile and the other a "for good" hack. Unfortunately none of the teams created any "for good" hacks. We did still have the mobile category winner though.

Best Mobile Hack - bevobuckspot

Kurt Scherer, Zeeshan Siddiqui, and Parth Upadhyay created a great mobile hack that allowed you to see when your on-campus funds (called Bevo Bucks) were getting low. You could sign up for the service and enter a threshold for when an alert should be sent. When your balance dipped below that amount a mobile alert would be sent to you in order to add more funds.

This team took home $50 iTunes gift cards.

Other Hack Winners

In addition to our specific category winners, we had a number of other hacks that took home prizes. These included:

  • TwitterFighter (Prad Nelluru and Brian VanDoren): Winners of schwag bags for their Twitter-based shooter.
  • Lockdown (Si Wan Kim and Thinh Lam): This team won a couple of thermoses for building a website lockdown system.
  • Geo-Tag (Gaurav Sanghani, Paul Nguyen and Sid Upadhyay): Winners of Yahoo! blankets for their location-based maze game.
  • Smarter Alarm (Hassaan Markhiani and David Tian): Winners of Yahoo! blankets for their advanced alarm and math system.
  • AndroidBreakSpeed (Matthew Oates): Bringing home a Yahoo! blanket for his pool break speed determination hack.

Wrap Up

We had a great time this year at the University of Texas. We've met a lot of very talented and determined students who are going to make great additions to the engineering force once they graduate. A big thanks to our hosts at the campus and for everyone that made this event a success.

For a full list of the hacks that produced this year by University of Texas hackers, see our hack tracker.