Hackerman Hall was filled for 36 hours over the weekend with students competing in Hopkins’ first-ever HopHacks event. From Friday at 9 p.m. to Sunday at 9 a.m., teams of students were put to the test, as they scrambled to create a unique and useful computer application.
HopHacks was not simply meant to showcase the originality and intellect of Hopkins students, but was actually a competition with a multitude of prizes. Awards were based on the creativity, practicality and complexity of the program. First place won $1,024, while second took home $512 and third received $256. Along with these cash prizes, there were sponsored prizes from Facebook, Epic and the Hopkins-run Social Innovation Lab.
Juniors Ben Glickman and Daniel Swann, alongside seniors Nathan Schloss and Tyler Cloutier, worked together to organize the event and bring it to Hopkins. Glickman had great expectations for the creativity the event was to unleash.
“It is always a challenge in 36 hours, to first of all, learn how to use a certain tool, and then create it to a certain standard of quality,” Glickman said. “We expect [the programs] to be really unique and with great success we can continue this tradition.” With over 120 students taking part, there was a large range of computer programs designed at the event.
This year’s grand prize winners created the application “DropMe” for iOS. Developed by the foursome of sophomores Brian Ho, Ben Lu, Willis Wang and Miles Zhang, the DropMe app allows for its users to keep records of the places they have been by “dropping” a photo or message at on-screen locations with the assistance of their mobile phone’s GPS.
A group called “Bmore Safe” also created an app based on GPS locations, but took on a different approach.
“My group was trying to develop an Android app that used your GPS location and Baltimore crime data to inform you if you were in or entering a bad neighborhood of Baltimore,” sophomore Michael Lombardo wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
The second place winning hack, the “SuperScale,” developed by sophomores Jason Albalah, Farhan Damani and Blaine Muri, is an application that allows its user to use their smartphone as a scale.
“We created a mobile application that weights objects on the phone screen using vibrations and its effect on the standard deviation of acceleration values,” Albalah said. “We hope it’ll have potential health IT applications.
The inspiration for HopHacks comes from similar, popular hackathon events seen on other campuses.
“We went to the PennApps hackathon at UPenn last semester, and we really enjoyed it,” Glickmann said. “Hackathons are a big thing amongst computer scientists. There’s MHacks at Michigan, there’s MIT Hacks at MIT and we really wanted to get in on that action. We enjoy it and wanted to bring it to campus.”
Glickman described the process of organizing the event as being fairly taxing.
“We had the idea last semester. During the summer we all were at internships at different tech companies, so it was harder to get together,” Glickman said. “As this semester came around, we realized [the event] was in a month. So, there were a lot of challenges.”
One aspect of the event the organizers had to account for was the lack of sleep by participants over the 36 hour window.
“They had a ton of food and shipments of Redbull and coffee, which went fast,” Albalah said.
Working 36 hours straight with limited or no rest was difficult for some students.
“I was there for the first 28 of the 36 hours,” Lombardo wrote. “It was fun to be coding for that long, but the lack of sleep starts to get you after about 30 hours of being awake.”
“It was funny at 4 a.m.” Albalah said. “Hackerman looked like a zombie apocalypse because people were just passed out everywhere.”
His group, unlike Lombardo’s, which rotated shifts, approached the problem of sleep deprivation differently.
“We tried to be strategic by sleeping the first night and cramming the second,” Albalah said.
While organizing HopHacks was difficult, the staff was determined to bring something to campus that really engaged students intellectually.
“The future goal of HopHacks is that we really want this to become an event each semester,” Glickman said. “We really want to engage the students of all types of backgrounds to try it out at least and see what people can do.”