One of the winning MTSU “HackMT” teams created an online app that can provide free food for the needy and help feed the homeless. Another would work in tandem with Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program at Christmas.
Joined by industry mentors and alumni, imaginative college students from across the region collaborated for 36 hours during the fifth annual HackMT, which wrapped up Jan. 26 in the MTSU Science Building.
The “hackathon” gathers software developers, visual designers, programmers and computer science/computer information systems students from area universities to form teams to invent new web platforms, games, mobile apps and electronic gadgets.
Students from Belmont, Vanderbilt, Motlow and elsewhere joined dozens from MTSU at the hackathon.
Aziza Mirsaidova, 21, an MTSU junior finance major from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, said her 10-member team, named Nom/Nom, created an app that was essentially a free-food finder.
“It actually is not only for giving away food, but helping people who need food,” she said.
MTSU alumnus Kenny Pyatt with Technology/Advice in Nashville mentored an 18-member team, made up mostly of MTSU freshmen and sophomores and named Charity Toy Tracker, to help make children happier at Christmas.
“I love the event. It’s fun to mentor,” said Pyatt, who added that the team worked on the project until 4 a.m. Sunday and returned later.
“Selfishly, I recruit people from the event to be hired at our company,” he said, adding that about 12 HackMT participants have landed jobs.
Murfreesboro Discovery School third-grader Alex Otter, 9, son of MTSU biology professor and Data Science Institute co-director Ryan Otter, said he enjoyed the “Crazy Connect” team’s augmented reality mini-games. He and Maxwell Wovchko, 12, a Brentwood (Tennessee) Middle School sixth-grader, also had a blast playing the popular Infinity team’s five games.
Infinity team member Daniel Cox, 31, an MTSU junior computer science major from Memphis, Tennessee, called it a “very positive and supportive experience. We pushed ourselves. I was motivated by (Hack MT veteran and MTSU graduate student) Steven Sheffey. … It was a nice, diverse level of academia around the team.”
“They had what I was looking for,” MTSU graduate student Kevin Barrett, 23, said of his involvement with the data science project led by professor Charlie Apigian.
“I felt like I learned a lot more in this 36-hour event than you can in an entire class. It’s much more focused.”
Apigian is co-director of the MTSU Data Science Institute.
Nom/Nom and L3Harris Technologies tied for first place in a judges’ vote. Charity Toy Tracker finished second. Car Hackers, which included four Belmont University students and a Motlow State student who plans to transfer to MTSU in the fall, placed third.
Nom/Nom also earned the event’s Hacker’s Choice Award.
“All of the teams and students worked really hard,” said MTSU computer science assistant professor Josh Phillips.
Asurion, a title sponsor along with L3Harris, presented a Raspberry Pi to Rafal Sobachi, 23, an MTSU senior information systems major from Jeddah, Saudia Arabia, in a door prize drawing.
To learn more about HackMT and the 2021 hackathon, which will be held Jan. 29-31, call 615-898-2397. To learn about sponsorship opportunities, call development officer Paul Wydra at 615-898-5329.
Including computer science, computer information systems and data science, MTSU has more than 300 combined undergraduate and graduate programs.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)