Troy University 24-hour Hackathon provides real-world challenge to aspiring coders

Published 3:17 pm Monday, November 6, 2023

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By Savanah Weed

Troy University’s Department of Computer Science hosted a 24-hour Hackathon, a thrilling event with the goal of tackling real-world challenges that began Saturday morning and ended Sunday morning at 11 a.m.

A total of 16 teams participated in this year’s event. Dr. Suman Kumar, associate professor and director of TROY’s Department of Computer Science, said while it’s called a Hackathon, it’s really a coding competition.

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“‘Hack’ is just a general term to make something easier, like a life hack. This event is not only exciting and a way for people to share their passion, it’s an exercise in creativity,” he said. “The journey is exciting, working and beating the clock and learning things quickly in a really short period of time. Creativity has no boundaries.”

Organized by Kumar, Dr. Byungkwan Jung, assistant professor, other faculty in the computer science department and the Computer Science Club, the event was initially started prior to COVID-19 but had been put on pause. Now, Kumar said the goal is to make it an annual event.

“We are proud to be only the second university in the region to host such an event fostering computer science and cybersecurity initiatives within our community. We want to attract talent from all over to computer science and TROY,” he said. “Anyone who can code or wants to learn to code is invited.”

During the event, participants are encouraged to form teams to collaborate on developing solutions. This year’s project had a focus on healthcare. Participants had a wide range of problems they could choose to tackle, including ambulance-patient optimization; personalized treatment; awareness systems; clinical decision support systems; nutrition counter; and advanced data security to keep healthcare records safe.

The contest was judged by Suresh Ale Magar, a two-time TROY graduate and current software engineer for Alfa Insurance, and TROY associate professors Dr. Alberto Arteta and Dr. Bill Zhong. Participants were judged on innovation and creativity; technical excellence; functionality and completeness; impact and usefulness; teamwork and collaboration; and presentation and pitch.

Teams began arriving Saturday morning at 8 a.m. for registration followed by the opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Industry experts and mentors were available throughout the event to provide support and guide participants through workshops and thought-provoking discussions. The hack ended at 8 a.m. Sunday morning with the closing ceremony held at 10 a.m.

The team of TROY graduate students Vamsi Kalyan Jupudi and David Livingston came in third place. Juniors Allysa Naovarath, Reed Oldham and Dylan Park with senior Jaiden Trawick placed second, and sophomores Alex King and Tristan Delgado came in first for their execution of an automated 911 call that utilized speech recognition and ChatGPT to fast track information to first responders.

“’It’s great that he University is willing to put this on,” Delgado said. “We learned so much getting to do all of this hands-on rather than sitting in a class.”

The event was sponsored by Marco’s Pizza, Troy Buffet, the Department of Computer Science and the C Spire Foundation, a charitable foundation that supports STEM education.

“STEM education is so important in our area because we need so many people to hire in STEM- related positions like cyber security, information technology and engineering,” said Tanya Ranking, C Spire Foundation manager. “It’s been a great experience and really fun to see them having a good time and learning and seeing their brilliant minds at work.”