From 2:30pm on Saturday, May 16th to 6:30pm on Sunday, May 17th, 234 high school students took part in HackTJ, the successor to TJ’s enormously successful 2013 hackathon (see May 2013 issue) which spawned a non-profit, Pilot, and served as the template for high school hackathons around the country (see June 2014 issue).
This year’s HackTJ, organized by Coding Lady Colonials, an 8th-period club for female programmers founded by TJ seniors Katherine Ann Van Kirk and Maddie Zug, brought the innovation, intensity, and fun back to TJ, and took it one step further, more than doubling the number of participants. “Our goal in bringing back HackTJ was to give all students the opportunity to learn and innovate in a welcoming and fun environment. Hackathons are a great way to expand participants’ coding skill-set, so we hope students challenged themselves and had a blast in the process!” Maddie said.
The hackathon was open to all high school students, whether or not they were part of a team prior to registration, and whether or not they already knew how to code. A fifth of the participants were from high schools other than TJ (the 2013 hackathon was open only to TJ students), and almost a third were female.
Mentors led Saturday afternoon workshops and gave advice throughout the weekend, making it possible for novices to compete alongside veteran coders. The following TJ alums came back to mentor students:
- Thomas Georgiou, ’10
- Stephen Jakiel, ’09
- Andriy Katkov, ’13
- Michael Liu, ’13
- Michael Martinka, ’87
- Vicky Somma, ’93
- Dan Tran, ’06
After coding for 24 hours straight with little or no sleep, the teams gathered in TJ’s new cafeteria at about 3:00pm on Sunday to describe their apps and websites to roving volunteer judges, in the style of a science fair. The ten teams with the highest marks from the judges then gave 3-minute pitches on the Auditorium stage in front of the judges, organizers, parents, and peers. Those ten teams were:
- Dormigo: Like a dating site for college roommates (the name is a combination of dorm and amigo), the app uses survey questions to guide potential roommates to their matches, then links to Facebook pages to reveal more information. It protects feelings by allowing roommates to find each other only when both have shown interest.
- AirDJ: The app allows you to be a DJ using only your computer, but the most interesting aspect, with many other applications, is the ability to manipulate 2D touch-screen elements, for example, a volume knob, without physically touching the screen’s surface (above right).
- MRI Analysis: The app adds contrast and 3D animation to standard cross-section MRI images, allowing doctors and patients to better visualize tumors (right).
- MyRemote: The app creates a remote-access system for your computer so you can run it using your phone. For example, you can text your computer using the command “hello world,” and your computer will say that phrase. You could theoretically use the app to photograph the person who has stolen your laptop and send the photo to your phone.
Columbus: The app collects photos you and others are taking, for example, at a large event where many participants are taking photos from different angles.
- Funza: This app intends to get people out of their routines by asking questions about their interests and price point and suggesting appropriate venues and activities. Using open source Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) such as Yelp, the team parsed reviews to sort them by activity cost.
- Zomblr: This app uses social media to encourage exercise. Your followers on the app are all zombies who pursue you by accumulating exercise points. You can only elude them — and simultaneously pursue them as a zombie — by accumulating exercise points yourself. Customizable and adaptable, the app allows exercisers to set their own goals, while getting fit together.
- Dispatch: This app alerts the driver when it senses a sudden change in vehicle speed, and if the driver fails to respond after fifteen seconds, uses push notifications to alert the driver’s contacts. The team showed a video demo shot in front of the school and a phone demo of the text-notification feature.
Twoll: Designed for the upcoming Presidential election, this site organizes candidate preferences as expressed on Twitter (the name is a combination of Twitter and poll) in an accessible map format, with information broken down by state. The user can hover over a state for percentages and click for more information. The team used a deep-learning neural network API to classify tweets as positive, negative, or neutral.
- Gavel Rank: This website organizes all Model UN conferences, providing location information, links, a data repository, and a ranking function for competing teams.
The event was sponsored by Universal Consulting Services, Inc., mongoDB, Inc.,; Yext (founded by TJ alums; see November 2013 issue), ACT: The App Association, reticare, and L’Oreal USA. In addition to covering the costs of prizes, food, and custodial services (students paid only a modest $10 to participate), sponsors contributed freebie cups, logo stickers, mints, pens, and more for all participants to take home. Everyone also got fantastic t-shirts, lanyards, HackTJ stickers, and plenty of memories.
Some students will continue to hone their apps and sites and attempt a roll out. Just remember, you saw it first at HackTJ (and can follow the post-hack action at @hackTJOfficial).
The winners, who received exciting techie prizes, including Nexus Tablets, Chromecast, Fitbit, Amazon giftcards, and portable speakers were:
Best Mobile App: Dispatch
Daniel Christopher, Battlefield HS ’18, Rahul Sundararaman, TJ ’16, Anuraag Yachamaneni, TJ ’16, Dheeraj Yachamaneni, Rock Ridge HS ’18
Best Web App: Dormigo
Kunal Naik, TJ ’16, Geetika Mahajan, TJ ’16, Taylor Quinn, TJ ’15, Stella Sotos, TJ ’16
Best Design: Zomblr
Alison Hau, TJ ’16, JR Cabansag, TJ ’16, Sweta Karlekar, TJ ’16, Eke Wokocha, TJ ’16
Most Innovative: AirDJ
Jason Hu, TJ ’15, John Park, TJ ’15, Eric Sun, TJ ’15, Shicheng Zhao, TJ ’15
Best Use of mongoDB: Columbus
James Cobau, BCC HS ’18, Ari Fiorino, BCC HS ’18, Nicolas Gonzalez, BCC HS ’18, Max Scribner, BCC HS ’18
Best Beginner Hack: Scrolling Inspirations
Emilia Cabrera, Woodson HS ’17, Hsing-Chun Lin, Woodson HS ’17