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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


36 hours of creation

Angeline Carbajal
Tommy Pryor, freshman at the University of Washington and Tucson native, demonstrates his sign language translator on Sunday in the Science and Engineering Library.

It’s 5:47 a.m. Students are sprawled out in the Science-Engineering Library, passed out. In a frenzy to finish and submit on time, others are stressfully working out the semantics of their hack. All that can be heard is a loud snore rumbling throughout the fifth floor.

Hack Arizona, the largest hackathon in the Southwest, brought a new meaning to student commitment and drive.

Over 400 students from schools across the country and from Tucson worked for 36 hours straight to build and innovate anything they dream possible. Students were encouraged to get creative with the hardware and software.

Among the works created were drones and robots reliant on algorithms that individuals spent the weekend working on. Another hot topic of the weekend was the American Sign Language translator created by Tommy Pryor, who was the winner of Hack Arizona’s Hardware Prize.

Other creations consisted of apps such as “Gridlock,” developed by ASU students Connor Davey, Christian Robles and Aritro Majumdar, which helps change the way traffic lights are controlled, and “Half Full,” an app that focuses on mood disorders through the use of an algorithm.

Computer science sophomore Ian Tracey, the InnovateUA director of Hack Arizona, said everything went very smoothly this weekend, especially considering this is their first time ever throwing an event like this.

Tracey said he’s impressed and proud of the way he and his InnovateUA teammates were able to pull this off.

Friday afternoon, students checked in and had the chance to network with some of the biggest names in the business. Hack Arizona’s sponsors, such as Raytheon, Amazon, Wolfram Alpha, USAA, State Farm and many others, set up booths that provided free material and information on job opportunities at the companies.

Most students were shocked when companies such as Raytheon and Amazon asked them if they had a resume they wanted to submit to them right there on the spot. 

Each sponsor had mentors wandering around the event helping students.

InnovateUA carefully planned a schedule full of activities to not only help participants or spark creativity but also give them much needed entertainment breaks.

Therapy dogs and a Super Smash Bros. tournament were provided and held as ways for students to unwind and relieve stress. However, by far the most popular activity offered was the hypnotist show.

Come early Sunday morning, tons of student hackers packed into a room to watch a show filled with laughter, tears, sleep dust, singing and dancing.

Tech Talks were offered throughout the weekend from the sponsors and InnovateUA members.

Each Tech Talk covered a specific topic or program and were applicable to any level of experience. Throughout the weekend, mentors made concepts easy to understand, even for inexperienced students.

In fact, many students in attendance had never been to a hackathon before and were excited for the opportunity to explore their potential.

Kevin Nguyen, an electrical and computer engineering freshman, said one of the main reasons he wanted to attend was to learn more by participating in such a hands-on event.

Nguyen said he enjoyed this experience and said it allowed him to respect programming much more because of all the hard work put in and the  unique things you can do in such a short amount of time. He added that his favorite part was the closing ceremony, because that’s when all the students found out what everyone else created in the span of 36 hours.

Finalists were announced at the closing ceremony. Each hack and team chosen went up and did a two-minute demonstration. These teams won challenges offered by InnovateUA and the sponsors and are now in the running for Best Hack, the biggest award of the event.

The team who wins Best Hack will be sent to the Global Hackathon in Seoul, Korea, later this year.

The winner, however, has not yet been chosen, because the organizers decided to let the student participants vote online for which hack they think is the best.

Justin Williams, executive director of InnovateUA, said the event was amazing and that he was very impressed with the organizing team.

“The fact that students on campus are leading this sort of an effort is amazing,” Williams said, “and to be able to pull people in from around the country and pull out of our own campus some of the most talented people here building amazing things. It’s super impressive and really inspirational.”


Follow Chastity Laskey on Twitter.

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