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Yahoo! Hack U


Computer programming students from the University of California, San Diego were anything but “hackadaisical” when a week-long Web programming extravaganza -- Yahoo! Hack U -- came to campus in April. In a 24-hour computer programming marathon that spanned an entire Thursday night, UC San Diego student teams hacked together a concert finder, a tool that adds favorite movies from friends’ Facebook profiles to your Netflix queue, a date-scheduling application, an early-morning multitasking program, and many other new online applications. Students created each app by combining tools, resources and data already available on the Web.

The camaraderie and energy generated by the overnight coding event inspired Gabriela Ponce and the rest of her all-female, all-freshman computer programming team to ask Yahoo! to track down their famed “code like a girl” tee-shirts. Four from the team wore their stereotype-breaking shirts the following week to their data structures midterm (CSE12).

“I thought I wasn’t going to like computer science because I didn’t fit the stereotype of a computer science person, but I really like it. I’m definitely a possible [computer science] major now,” said Ponce, recalling her mindset last fall as an incoming freshman.

During the 24-hour coding session, Ponce and her teammates hacked together an automatic class-schedule generator. Add the classes you want to take to a spreadsheet, and the new application creates all possible schedules.

“Seeing all the different scheduling possibilities, we thought that would be really helpful,” explained Ponce. “What discussion sections are going to mess up your schedule?” This is the kind of question the hack can answer, said Ponce.

The winning UCSD team -- they call themselves iRock -- certainly did make an impression on the judges, who were each given an iPhone at the start of the presentation. Running on each iPhone was the team’s hack -- a location-aware Web application that finds nearby, upcoming music concerts that fit the user’s music preferences.

“For each of the shows, our hack returns the date and time, the address, and from that, you can view a map,” explained David Vanoni who hosts the hack at www.rockmyworld.dvanoni.com.

One of Vanoni’s teammates, computer science undergraduate Andrew Huynh, is still working on the project. He and electrical engineering (ECE) Ph.D. student Luke Barrington are integrating algorithms for listening to music into the hack.

“When I first tell people about Yahoo! Hack Day, they usually ask ‘What are you hacking into?’ I explain to people that it’s not hacking into something but hacking something together,” said Vanoni, who is finishing up his computer science undergraduate degree this quarter and is weighing his options for graduate school.

“Hanging out with a group of people for 24 hours was fun, and it was fun to work with the Yahoo! engineers, too. We got good input from the Yahoo! guys on what we were doing,” said Vanoni.

About 75 UCSD students -- primarily computer scientists -- on 30 teams took part in Hack U 2010. The judging panel included Yahoo! Engineers, computer science faculty  Rick Ord and Gary Gillespie, and electrical and computer engineering (ECE) professor Gert Lanckriet, all from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

The first place team -- they call themselves iRock -- will travel to Sunnyvale, California, later this year to compete in the Yahoo! Grand Hack Championship. Other universities that have already participated in Yahoo! Hack U 2010 include IIIT Hyderabad in India, Georgia Tech, and the University of Texas at Austin.

The Final Results for Hack U 2010 at the UCSD Jacobs School are as follows:


    Best Overall 

  • 1st Place
    Hack: Rock My World: Geo-location based iPhone web application to find the nearest music gigs. Team: iRock Students: Andrew Huynh BS CSE’10, David Vanoni BS CSE’10, Matt Peterson BS CSE’10.
  • 2nd Place
    Hack: Friends Favorite Movies: Application that enables Facebook users to browse their friend's favorite movies, and add them to a Netflix queue. Team: UCSD Team Bean Students: Qays Poonawala BS CSE’11, Lance Castillo BS CSE’11
  • 3rd Place
    Hack: Date Roulette: Bringing romance to UCSD via free time based random date scheduling. Never spend another loveless moment waiting by yourself. Team: Ground Up Designs Students: Jacob Lyles MS CSE’10, Thomas Weng MS CSE’10, Jawon Lee BS CSE’12, Doran Joy BS CSE’13

  • Best Mobile
    Hack: Breakfast -- Morning multitasking for those who need another excuse to delay getting out of bed. Check missed email, messages, local news, local traffic reports, and stocks all from the comfort of your bed with just one click. Team: We Can’t Cook Students: Jeff Chang BS MAE’10, Jeff Chien BS MAE’10, Avinash Ananth BS CE’13
  • Hack for Good
    Hack: Saver List -- Application that looks up disasters data (e.g. earthquakes) and confirms the status of the users in a certain mile radius from its center. The potential victims of the disaster will be accessed in a real time. This application also reports response (safe, hurt, or not found) for those in the affected areas. Team: Life Savers Students: Amir Shirkhani, Allan Souza, Mohammad Zohour
  • Honorable Mentions for the Overall Hack Category
    Hack: Breakfast -- Morning multitasking for those who need another excuse to delay getting out of bed. Check missed email, messages, local news, local traffic reports, and stocks all from the comfort of your bed with just one click. Team: We Can’t Cook Students: Jeff Chang BS MAE’10, Jeff Chien BS MAE’10, Avinash Ananth BS CE’13
    Hack: Memory Apocalypse - A flashcard memory system which uses the spacing effect to maximize studying efficiency. Good for the end of the world. Team: Unicorn Apocalypse Students: Bulat Bochkariov BS CSE’13, David Watson BS CSE’12, Li Pi BS CSE’12
    Hack: UTagIt Search - Custom community tagging that lets you experience the better parts of searching the web. Team: Tag Team Students: Robert Dunlap BS CSE’12, Hung Tran BS CSE’12, George Wu BS CSE’12, Joshua Greenfield BS CSE’11

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