From the time registration opened at 11 a.m. Saturday, laptop screens were casting shadows on every corner of Sitterson Hall’s bottom floor.
Starting at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and ending 1:30 p.m. Sunday, the computer science building was abuzz with technical jargon while organizers in purple HackNC shirts floated between the teams of student programmers. The 24-hour event marked the Triangle’s largest ever hackathon, representing UNC, Duke University, N.C. State University and several other southeastern colleges.
“There are a lot of these events that are popping up all over the place, and we thought it would be really cool if there were one definitive hackathon for the Triangle,” said lead organizer and applied science major David Spanos.
“The purple shirts are a combination of N.C. State’s red and Duke and UNC’s blue.”
Spanos said although UNC has had three or four hackathons, HackNC is the largest by far, with 121 participants and several sponsors like Innovate@Carolina, Google and BitPay, a company that contributed $10,000 of HackNC’s total $18,000.
He said teams of students are given 24 hours to create and program their ideas, which are then judged by organizers and sponsors to determine who receives cash prizes and giveaways. The winning team developed “Gotcha,” an Android application that alerts the user when you have lost your phone and provides better battery information.
“Hacking is really kind of a jargon term for programming applications really quickly,” said Matt Leming, an organizer of the event.
“People have produced a lot of cool stuff, like the ‘Like’ button on Facebook was produced at a hackathon, and there’s some really creative stuff going on out there.”
Virginia Tech seniors Mohammed Davoodi and Darius Emrani, who attended the event, said they were designing a program to work as a Yellow Pages for people transferring bitcoin, a type of digital currency. They said current addresses for bitcoin are long and confusing, so they were trying to build a way to look up people and pay them directly.
“This is the perfect atmosphere to sit down and just be focused and get work done,” Davoodi said. “There are just so many distractions at home. I need incentive to sit down and do something.”
Other teams took their ideas in different directions, using the designated time for developing more social applications.
Computer science master’s students Zach Cross, Mike Rooney and Nick Bartlett decided to participate in HackNC because they had not been to UNC’s previous hackathons and thought it would be a good experience before graduating. They designed an application that would take students’ locations and alert them to nearby events on campus.
“If there’s an event in the building to the left of you, you’d never know it,” Bartlett said.
“The idea is that by giving your location from your phone, we can find events near you, and maybe based on your interests, recommend events.”
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