Hackathon brings record number of participants

By Karen Ho

The fourth annual Hackpoly drew its curtains to the largest intercollegiate hackathon hosted on the Cal Poly Pomona campus.

A record total of 650 participants from CPP and more than 20 other universities gathered in the Bronco Student Center and toiled on their tech innovations and creations for 24 hours over the Feb. 11-12 weekend.

Hackpoly was a testament to students’ efficiency and perseverance, but it also aimed to be a light-hearted event where participants could enjoy listening to tech talks by successful entrepreneurs, interacting with tech companies sponsoring the event and honing their skills at workshops.

“The whole event is an experience rather than building products itself,” said Hackpoly organizer Rushi Shah, a fourth-year business marketing student and president of Poly Founders. “It’s seeing how there’s so much that we still don’t know yet.”

The hackathon, hosted by CPP’s entrepreneurial organization Poly Founders, encouraged any type of hardware, software or code-based project from hackers of all skill levels.

A total of 70 projects were submitted for judging at the end of the hackathon.

Judges selected winners based on technicality, originality, design and applicability factors.

First place was awarded to UC Riverside students Ishan Agrawal, Nishanth Babu, Agustin Balquin and David Zheng for their project, “Apeeling Eats,” an application designed to gather and display sentiment data for every food of a restaurant’s menu, whether people like, dislike or are neutral about a menu item.

The idea is that users would know what they want to eat the second they step into a restaurant.

The hack also won Best Beginner Hack for having at least two members who were first-time hackers.

Babu, a third-year UC Riverside computer science student and “Apeeling Eats” team member, attended the hackathon more to explore his first hackathon and less expecting to win.

He was shocked when his team won first place.

“It was just like a surprising turn of events to actually end up winning,” said Babu. “We just wanted to go there and create something just for fun and just have fun at Cal Poly.”

Kyle Turchik, a fifth-year computer science student and “Battle of the Bards” team member, said his team was confident with their idea and considered the possibility of winning but, like Babu, said they didn’t necessarily aim to win either.

When they won both Best Game Hack and second place, he said they were surprised and happy.

“We just wanted to make the game and make something cool,” said Turchik.

Winners received electronic prizes including tablets, drones and Amazon Echo Dots as well as pitches at other events and automatic entries to the Bronco Startup Challenge at CPP for a chance to win $10,000.

Babu, Turchik, and hackers Anthony Lackey, a third-year CPP computer science student, and Jerome Francisco, a fifth-year CPP computer information systems student, all noted that the event was well-run, organized and helpful to participants.

Francisco, who attended last year’s Hackpoly, said that this year’s Hackpoly was quite consistent with last year’s.

“I think they did a pretty good job of maintaining that level of professionalism,” said Francisco.

Lackey mentioned volunteers frequently checked on participants to see if anyone needed help.

He also expressed how Hackpoly and hackathons in general are helpful for meeting fellow hackers and showcasing their work.

Additionally, Hackpoly hosted tech talks by successful entrepreneurs Henrik Fisker, a luxury car designer and CEO of Fisker, Inc.; George Ishii, a CPP alum and co-founder of Yammer, an organizational platform acquired by Microsoft; and Mahbod Moghadam, co-founder of RapGenius and Everipedia.

More than 20 companies that include Farmer’s Insurance, UPS and Northrop Grumman sponsored Hackpoly 2017.

CPP organizations like SWIFT, IEEE, the Computer Science Society, the Game Design and Development club and others also all helped out at the massive event.

Poly Founders advisor and CPP economics professor Edmond Wu said that in terms of almost all facets of the event, Hackpoly 2017 was a success.

Through events like Hackpoly, Wu hopes students can realize their abilities in how much they can create and build within a short amount of time.

“I think the best thing they can learn [is that] they’re empowered to do a lot of things,” said Wu.

Considering the growing success of Hackpoly throughout the years, Wu hopes Poly Founders can acquire more sponsorships, fundraise more money for the event and gain greater support from the university to host larger hackathons.

The 2017 Hackpoly was the largest Intercollegiate hackathon and gathered a total of 650 participants

Evelyn Garcia / The Poly Post

The 2017 Hackpoly was the largest Intercollegiate hackathon and gathered a total of 650 participants

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