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With extra help, techie MTSU students sweep Hack-M...

With extra help, techie MTSU students sweep Hack-MT [+VIDEO]

It didn’t take Belmont University freshman computer science major Tito Ebiwonjumi long to feel right at home at MTSU.

Ebiwonjumi, 17, who is from Lagos, Nigeria, participated in the Department of Computer Science’s second Hack-MT that ended Sunday, Feb. 5, in the Science Building. He pitched an idea on Day 1, but not enough people worked with him. Then he decided to “forget the idea and go work with other people and get the experience.”

The international student joined nine other MTSU student team members to create “VR-Maze.com,” a virtual reality maze game. The group captured first place in the event that brings software developers, visual designers, programmers, computer science and computer information systems students together with industry mentors to create programs and projects in 36 hours. Here’s a recap:

“It took us 26 hours to get it done,” Ebiwonjumi said after the excited team received the first-place award. “We actually created three maps for up to 100 players on one map, but my map did not function. The other two maps functioned well.”

Ebiwomjumi called his first hackathon “a huge learning experience. … I learned to work with people I had never met.” He also carried a MacBook laptop back to Belmont. He won it Sunday morning in a drawing.

MTSU received first-, second- and third-place honors, plus earned the Hackers Choice Award voted on by the competitors.

Runner-up “ParkMT” created a program to help solve the campus’s parking challenges. The team was composed of physics, mathematics (two) and computer science majors.

Yuxin Zhang, 22, a senior computer science major from Lanzhou, China, said she “learned new ways to interpret data and the exchange of ideas with each other.”

As sophomore computer science major Sam Remedios of Nolensville, Tennessee, told onlookers about their creation, upper classman physics and math student Ryan Florida of Nashville said their team benefited from being a mix of majors.

“We just had somebody (an industry mentor) come by and say our project could apply to first responders and to active shooter situations,” Florida said.

Three University of Alabama computer science juniors — Joey Murphy, Scott Carl and Chipper Atkins — collaborated for a Web-related project called “Intellichef” for preparing meals.

MTSU sophomore Samuel Remedios, a computer science major, explains his team's project, "Park MT," to people attending the second Hack-MT event Feb. 5 in the Science Building's Liz and Creighton Rhea Atrium. Teammate Kirolos Shahat, right, a University of Tennessee-Knoxville student, listens.

MTSU sophomore Samuel Remedios, a computer science major, explains his team’s project, “Park MT,” to people attending the second Hack-MT event Feb. 5 in the Science Building’s Liz and Creighton Rhea Atrium. Teammate Kirolos Shahat, right, a University of Tennessee-Knoxville student, listens.

“This was our first experience with a back end Web server, so it was learn as we go,” Murphy said. “We all like to cook. Whether you use an app or look online, you can spend a lot of time scrolling back and forth. What we did is combine the two, where it’s all integrated.”

Yolanda Greene of Murfreesboro, Rutherford County marketing president for premier sponsor First Tennessee Bank, said her biggest takeaway was “how the kids connect to inspire them to create, identify and connect to a greater need in the community.”

“I don’t know the behind-the-scenes work, but I know it was a lot of work,” she said. “I’m hoping to meet some of these guys on the next level (when they seek employment after graduation).”

Greene’s children — Madison, 9, Dwayne Jr., 5, and Selene, 3 — joined their mom for Sunday’s finale, which included judging and awards.

More than 200 students completed 22 projects.

“Every cubby (hole) throughout the whole building was utilized,” said Chrisila Pettey, computer science chair and event director. “And they were all really excited.”

Third-place MTSU “Game of Code” featured 32 team members. “Furby MT,” a personal assistant that talked, earned the Hackers Choice Award. It was a spinoff of the electronic robotic toy released in 1998.

Hack-MT is a way to gather students from MTSU and other universities together with industry partners and alumni to gain experience that might lead to future employment.

Other sponsors include Bondware Inc., Cat Financial, Ingram Book Company, Decision Source Inc., LeanKit and SERVPRO.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

The crowd attending the second Hack-MT hackathon event at MTSU gathers in the Science Building's Liz and Creighton Rhea Atrium during the judging portion of the event.

The crowd attending the second Hack-MT hackathon event at MTSU gathers in the Science Building’s Liz and Creighton Rhea Atrium during the judging portion of the event.

"Furby MT," a project an MTSU team in the Hack-MT event completed, earned the Hackers Choice Award. The second MTSU computer science hackathon event was held Feb. 3-5 in the MTSU Science Building.

“Furby MT,” a project an MTSU team in the Hack-MT event completed, earned the Hackers Choice Award. The second MTSU computer science hackathon event was held Feb. 3-5 in the MTSU Science Building.

The "VR-Maze.com" team earned first-place honors in the Hack-MT in MTSU's Science Building Feb. 5. Michael Schmidt, a MTSU junior computer science major, holds the plaque. Alumnus Sina Serrati, second from right, joined them. The team created a virtual reality maze game.

The “VR-Maze.com” team earned first-place honors in the Hack-MT in MTSU’s Science Building Feb. 5. Michael Schmidt, a MTSU junior computer science major, holds the plaque. Alumnus Sina Serrati, second from right, joined them. The team created a virtual reality maze game.

Attendees try out the first-place winner "VR-Maze.com," a virtual reality maze game for up to 100 players per map, during the Feb. 5 MTSU computer science Hack-MT in the Science Building's Liz and Creighton Rhea Atrium. (MTSU photos by Kimi Conro)

Attendees try out the first-place winner, “VR-Maze.com,” a virtual reality maze game for up to 100 players per map, during the Feb. 5 MTSU computer science Hack-MT in the Science Building’s Liz and Creighton Rhea Atrium. (MTSU photos by Kimi Conro)


Tech-driven college students brainstorm at second Hack-MT

At least a dozen universities and more than 300 tech-savvy collegiate minds will descend on the MTSU campus this weekend for the second Hack-MT.

For 36 hours Friday through Sunday, Feb. 3-5, in the MTSU Science Building, Hack-MT will gather software developers, visual designers, programmers, computer science and computer information systems students from area universities, including MTSU, to form teams to invent new web platforms, mobile apps and electronic gadgets.

Vanderbilt University doctoral candidate Kate Brady, left, of Durham, N.C., explains to Katie St. Francis of Hendersonville, Tenn., about the "Translation Practice" project she worked on during the first Hack-MT in the MTSU Science Building in this January 2016 file photo. St. Francis is director of product strategy for LeanKit, last year’s title sponsor. (MTSU file photo by Randy Weiler)

Vanderbilt University doctoral candidate Kate Brady, left, of Durham, N.C., explains to Katie St. Francis of Hendersonville, Tenn., about the “Translation Practice” project she worked on during the first Hack-MT in the MTSU Science Building in this January 2016 file photo. St. Francis is director of product strategy for LeanKit, last year’s title sponsor. (MTSU file photo by Randy Weiler)

Year 1 was a rousing success for competitors, organizers and sponsors alike, becoming one of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences top events for 2015-16.

“How do you define success?” Dr. Chrisila Pettey, MTSU Department of Computer Science chair, asked rhetorically.

“Based on the follow-up survey results, the attendees really enjoyed it and the students learned a lot, developed more confidence and were excited about what they developed. Students and industry professionals alike wanted us to do another one.”

MTSU students, while slow to gravitate to this new idea for a hacking event a year ago, quickly swung the pendulum. They endured a lack of sleep and kept coffee and energy drinks flowing through their system, leaving ready for another Hack-MT.

“I expect Hack-MT to be great this year,” said Steven Sheffey, 21, an MTSU senior computer science major and mathematics minor from Lebanon, Tennessee.

“We’ve done a lot of campaigning to bring fresh faces into this year’s hack-athon, and I’m hoping the diversity results in some really cool projects.”

Some MTSU students have participated in hack-athons at Purdue University in Indiana, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Vanderbilt and George Washington University in Washington, D.C. MTSU students even earned an industry-sponsored prize at the BoilerMake IV interplanetary hack-athon at Purdue.

“I’m a hack-athon veteran, so I’m fairly prepared,” Sheffey said. “I always come into a hack-athon with an idea for a project, so I can start working as soon as the event starts. As for my team, they’re ready to roll as well.”

Dr. Chrisila Pettey

Dr. Chrisila Pettey

Pettey said it’s good for students to attend other hack events.

“They’re learning their craft,” she said. “The more they do, the better they will be at it.”

Sheffey said the most important thing he has learned from the hack-athon experiences is the need “to allocate your team’s resources well.”

As for Year 2, Pettey’s hopes and expectations are that “more of our students would come, and whoever comes would have a good learning experience and have fun. Based on input we’ve been given, we’ve tweaked a few things and, hopefully, it will be a good event.”

Registration begins at 5 p.m. Feb. 3, followed by dinner at 6 and opening ceremonies at 7 p.m. in the Liz and Creighton Rhea Atrium. The public is invited to the opening and closing ceremonies; the closing event is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Feb. 5.

To find parking and the Science Building, a printable campus map is available at http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap.

First Tennessee is the premier sponsor. Other sponsors include Bondware Inc., Cat Financial, Ingram Book Company, Decision Source Inc., LeanKit and SERVPRO.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

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Feb. 3-5 Hack-MT product development event eyes entries

Organizers planning the second Hack-MT computer event at MTSU are seeking additional groups of tech-savvy college and university entrants for the Feb. 3-5 event as the Jan. 27 deadline approaches.

So far, Belmont, Fisk, Regent and Union universities have joined MTSU in registering for the 36-hour event that brings software developers, visual designers, programmers and computer science students to the university Science Building.

In this January 2016 file photo, MTSU Hack-MT participating students share the results of their projects with judges and others attending the three-day, 36-hour event in the Science Building. (MTSU file photo by Randy Weiler)

In this January 2016 file photo, MTSU Hack-MT participating students share the results of their projects with judges and others attending the three-day, 36-hour event in the Science Building. (MTSU file photo by Randy Weiler)

To register, visit http://tinyurl.com/zjjppyc.

In the inaugural Hack-MT last year, 270 people registered and more than 200 participated during the weekend. In all, 16 products were developed by teams. Two of those were funded by MTSU College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Bud Fischer and the teams completed them.

MTSU’s Department of Computer Science is holding the event in collaboration with Hack Tennessee and the TN STEM Innovation Network.

First Tennessee Bank is this year’s presenting sponsor. Other sponsors include LeanKit, Decision Source Inc., Servpro Industries Inc., Bondware, Caterpillar Financial and Ingram Book Company.

For more information, call Chrisila Pettey at 615-898-2397. Pettey is chair of the computer science department.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)


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