hackNY Raises The Bar Again For Student Hackathons

This was originally posted on twilio.com by Rob Spectre of Twilio. 

Occupying New York University once more, hackNY students again raised the bar for the hackathon this weekend.  With the fifth installment of their long running companion event to their successful fellowship program, the joint NYU / Columbia venture hosted over 375 students, a new record.   Hacker League logged 56 different projects in total built during the 24-hour event with students participating from every major engineering program in the Northeast US.

Students representing NYU, Columbia, MIT, Harvard, Yale, Rutgers, Princeton, Brown, RISD, UPenn, and Carnegie Mellon all congregated in the Courant Institute for Mathematical Sciences for the 24-hour buildoff.  Dragging along their sleeping bags and second monitors, the undergraduate hackers, hustlers and designers signed up for no sleep and lots of food over a weekend celebration of creativity.  The hackNY hackathons have become street cred showcases for East Coast students looking to cut their teeth in tech  Strong showings at hackNY are strongly considered in applications for their competitive fellowships, demo slots at New York Tech Meetup and employment at startups all over the United States.

Next Level Hacking

MongoDB makers 10gen ran buses from Philadelphia and Boston to pick up students. Photo by Matylda Czarnecka.

If you’re a student, hackNY is where you bring your A-game and last weekend’s event continued to up the ante.  ”Today’s hacks were a significant step up from even the Fall hackNY Hackathon six months ago,” said Gary Chou from Union Square Ventures, a frequent judge and mentor at past events.  ”Hacks often used to stand out being technologically awesome.  Today, the ones that stood out were conceptually awesome.”

The students did not sacrifice quality, with the prolific production demonstrating greatness in both number and gnarliness. The crowd favorites were all over the computing spectrum.  One team produced ncnyt, an ncurses frontend for the New York Times and posted it on the Cheese Shop, meaning I’ll never have to leave my terminal window again.  Another made Discofy, a Spotify playlist generation app based on the classic game of selecting a song based on one word from the artist or title before it.  Another fave was Quill, a dead simple blog engine for node.js taking inspiration from Jekyll.

hackNY alumni and staff coordinate. Photo by Matylda Czarnecka.

Stunning Winners

Appropriately following the longest hackNY demo session was the longest hackNY judging session with each judge commenting on the difficulty of selection in such a high quality field. Numerous honorable mentions were awarded along with first, second and third place.

Hacking For Good Award
Give A Little – an app to auto-contribute to your favorite charities each time you check in to your favorite places.
Tess Rinearson (UPenn), Nicholas Meyer (UPenn), Drew Inglis (CMU), Willy Huang (UPenn), Alice Lee(UPenn)

Best Hardware Hack
RFID Food Orderer – an Arduino RFID reader that will take an RFID tag and place an order on Ordr.in.
Kevin Barresi (Stevens Institute of Technology)

Most APIs
hacknyancat – A valiant effort to use every API on the demo list for the event.
Charlie He (Columbia University), Nathan Hwang (Columbia University), Nancy Ouyang (MIT), David Iserovich (NYU), Timothy Yang (MIT)

Not Quite Erlang Award
Fourthsquare – A wrapper for the Foursquare API… written in Lisp.
Aditya Mukerjee (Columbia University)

Most Judgmental
JudgingHipster – a Turntable.fm bot that sits in your room while you are away, trolling anyone who plays Top 40 to keep it credible.
Hans Hyttinen (Columbia University)

Third Place
Musigallery – A “Pinterest for music” displaying a cross-platform tiling UI to play free music.
Raymond Zhong (Princeton), Daniel Chyan (Princeton), Elaine Liew (Princeton)

Second Place
Nonsense and Sensibility – A slightly psychic text editor that anticipates your every word.
Jacob Andreas (Columbia University)

First Place
cLoudspeaker – an unbelievable web app that syncs music among all open browsers connected to it.
Xin Yang Yak (Princeton), Eugene Lee (Princeton), Alexander Zhao (Princeton), Kaushal Parikh (Rutgers University)

See For Yourself

Video of all the demos (all 120 minutes!) are available here in Part 1 and Part 2.  Video of the awards ceremony available here.