Games, a motivating grade-projector tool and an online bulletin board were just some of the ingenious applications that students designed and created in just 24 hours.
Organized entirely by Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar students, the 24-hour “Hackathon” provided the opportunity for students from both Carnegie Mellon and Qatar University to demonstrate applications that have the promise of contributing to the next generation of innovations in Qatar and beyond.
For those of us generally unfamiliar with the world of computer science, the word “hacking” may have a negative connotation.
However, Carnegie Mellon defines hacking as using programming to build something cool. The Carnegie Mellon Hackathon required teams of students to develop a project or application idea - be it a game, a mobile application or a web application - into a working application. Students who participated in the event - referred to as 'hackers' - could use any technology to build their application, encouraging them to showcase their creativity, range of skills and future potential.
Each team presented their project to a panel of industry judges, including: Sirraj Kara, senior engineer, embedded software, Williams F1; Dick Olsson, Drupal lead developer, Al Jazeera; and Zaid Haque, lead desktop publishing officer, Hamad International Airport. This afforded the students an opportunity to get first-hand experience of how industry professionals in Qatar use technology to further their business goals.
“This is such a great opportunity for students in Qatar. I was so impressed with all of the teams here and I see a bright future for each of these students. I want to see an extension of all of the applications showcased today and for them to be put into use in Qatar and the rest of the world,” said Zaid Haque, lead desktop publishing officer at Hamad International Airport and a Carnegie Mellon Qatar information systems graduate.
“As an information systems graduate, I learned so much from Carnegie Mellon, I learned about design principles and how people interact with technology, as well as a strong work ethic” he continued.
While the event may appear to be geared to those with technical backgrounds, the Hackathon provided an opportunity for people from a variety of fields to contribute. Forty students, including 34 from Carnegie Mellon Qatar and six from Qatar University, gathered for Carnegie Mellon Qatar’s inaugural Hackathon.
Sidra Alam, a senior in computer science at Carnegie Mellon Qatar and a member of the organizing committee, was inspired to bring Hackathon to Qatar after participating in a similar event in Pittsburgh.
“We were surprised at how many people here were inspired by the idea; we didn’t expect such an overwhelming response,” she said.
“Our aim is to infuse a culture of building applications,” she added.
This year’s winners included “Tronica,” a web-based question and answer interface similar to Apple’s Siri product, whose creators, “Cereal Killers,” won the prize for the Best Hack. The application was able to answer questions asked by the audience and impressed the crowd when it was answered a question regarding the projected opening date of Qatar’s new airport.
Other winners included; “Grade Project App,” a mobile phone application that calculates students’ GPAs, whose team, “IScotty,” won the prize for Best Design. “Baljeet Adventure,” a three-layer brain-stimulating maze game, won team “BalJEET” the Best Freshman Team.
“I am proud of the student organisers and all of the participants. This experience will help students in their future careers as it teaches them how to work in a team and apply what they have learned in class to create new technology. The 24 hour deadline emphasises the need for the students to think logically about the best way to design and develop their applications,” Said Thierry Sans, assistant teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon Qatar.