Recapping MLH Local Hack Day: the 12 hour hackathon

By Kaitlyn Houlihan

On December 2, 2017, over 275 communities from every continent (except Antarctica) simultaneously hosted 12-hour-long hackathons in the 4th annual MLH Local Hack Day, the LARGEST Local Hack Day in the world. Pace University’s Pleasantville campus was just one of those communities, hosting its first ever hackathon in the Stephen J. Friedman Multipurpose Room in Willcox Hall from 9:00am-9:00pm.

Photo via Maxim Vuolle, Pace Photography Club

The idea to participate in Local Hack Day was presented by Seidenberg’s own seasoned hackers Drew Ku (BS Information Systems ’20) and Angel Rodriguez (BS Computer Science ’20), and facilitated by the fantastic Assistant Dean for Academic Innovation Andreea Cotoranu. After a great deal of thought, this terrific trio decided upon setting the theme of the hackathon to social innovation. According to the Canadian Centre for Social Innovation, “social innovation refers to the creation, development, adoption, and integration of new concepts and practices that put people and the planet first. Social innovations resolve existing social, cultural, economic, and environmental challenges.” That being said, it is almost impossible to imagine a more perfect theme for a hackathon! Because of the topic’s broad nature, participants were easily able to find brilliant solutions that better the planet, daily life, communities, and efficiency of everyday tasks.

Photo by Alec Zawadzki

On the day of the event, a total of 11 teams and 41 high school, undergraduate, and graduate students came out as early as 8:30am for this hacking extravaganza. A wide range of skill levels was present, and although beginner-level coder Justin from Mamaroneck High School found the process of developing his own program difficult at first, he felt better with guidance from faculty and student experts. In addition to faculty and student mentors providing assistance throughout the day, workshops were held to accommodate all skill levels. These workshops were led by Ben Longobardi (MEAN Stack), Drew Ku (Python and APIs), Pace alumnus and adjunct professor Dhruv Gandhi (product development and design thinking), and Angel Rodriguez (HTML/CSS).

Photo by Maxim Vuolle, Pace Photography Club

As computer science professor and faculty mentor Dr. Rick Kline noted, “everyone is eating and hacking, which is what we hoped for,” and it couldn’t have been better stated! Hackers and volunteers had plenty of food and coffee to fuel them through the day, from bagels to pizza from Sal’s to spinach and artichoke dip from Applebee’s (a Seidenberg favorite). However, the most important products of the day were most definitely the 11 incredible ideas that were developed by participants and tackled social issues from mitigating climate change to increasing socialization within communities, among others. Drew felt that “the event [best showcased] student independence because of the broadness of the theme of Social Innovation.”

Photo by Timothy Martinez, Pace Photography Club

At 7:00pm, all hackers submitted their projects via DevPost and began pitching and demoing their ideas to an esteemed panel of judges comprised of Chief Executive Nerd of Kool Nerd Club Orane Barrett, Founder and Lead Developer of Swapity Brian Brunos, as well as Seidenberg’s own Andreea Cotoranu and students Blake Hofland, Ben Longobardi, Drew Ku and Angel Rodriguez. Participants had three minutes to pitch and demo their projects. It was so amazing to witness the variety of ingenious solutions that were presented!

Choosing the winners wasn’t an easy task for the judges, especially after seeing all the effort everyone put into ideating and executing their projects throughout the day. However as all competitions go, it had to be done. Awards were given based on various categories, and the winners are as follows:

  • Best web application – Team F (Mamaroneck High School)
  • Best mobile hack – fORAGER (Pace University)
  • Best impact hack – lendme (Pace University)
  • Best designed hack – TutorFinder (Pace University)
  • Best documented hack – Vivlio (Pace University)
  • Hackiest hacker – Spotlite (Pace University)
  • Seidenberg Spirit Award – Pierre-Julien Morange (Team F, Mamaroneck High School)
  • Kool Nerd Award (sponsored by Kool Nerd Club) – Charles (TrunkPool, Pace University)

And, of course, a TON of awesome prizes were given out! Among these prizes were some Amazon Echo Dots, Raspberry Pi computers, board games, two of the coveted Seidenberg sweatshirts, and a Kool Nerd Club hoodie.

Photo by Abby Bonds, Pace Photography Club

Being Pace University’s first ever hackathon on social innovation, this event was undoubtedly a roaring success. Not only was it a blast for everyone who attended (participants, mentors, and staff alike), but it was a tremendous learning experience for all! All day long, participants ideated, collaborated, created, and demoed projects that resulted in marvelous solutions to problems we all face. In doing this, students were able to think outside the box and combine their immense knowledge of technology with their awareness of the world around them and, ultimately, grow intellectually and as global citizens. Which, when you think about it, is exactly the purpose of resolving social issues!

This would not have been possible without the student participants, staff, and volunteers who made this day so memorable. The entire Seidenberg community would like to extend a special thank you to our sponsors: Virginia LeTourneau ‘85, the Seidenberg School of CSIS, Kool Nerd Club, and Swapity. Also, thanks to our student mentors, workshop leaders, judges, and especially to the Pace Photography Club for capturing the event.

Pace Cyber Team racks up points in the 2017 National Cyber League

By Kaitlyn Bestenheider

Throughout the entire month of April 2017, the Pace University Cyber Team competed in the National Cyber League’s first ever spring season competition. The National Cyber League (NCL) started in May 2011 as a platform to “provide an ongoing virtual training ground for participants to develop, practice, and validate their cybersecurity knowledge and skills using next-generation high-fidelity simulation environments.”

The Pace Cyber Team definitely validated their knowledge! In this capture-the-flag style offensive and defensive security competition, each participant had to show proficiency and excellence in all nine of the following categories:

  • Cryptography
  • Enumeration and Exploitation
  • Log Analysis
  • Network Traffic Analysis
  • Open Source Intelligence
  • Password Cracking
  • Scanning
  • Web Application Exploitation
  • Wireless Access Exploitation
Pace Cyber Team: progress as they battled in the final hours of the post-season team competition

Most team members placed individually in either the silver or the coveted gold brackets of the competition going up against the best of the best nationwide. Of the over 2000 competitors only the top 15% will compete in the gold bracket, while the following 35% will make it to silver. This season, 1,891 students/players and 269 faculty/ coaches from 291 two- and four-year schools in 43 U.S. states registered to play in the Preseason/Regular Season.

The Pace Cyber Team also went on to compete in the Silver Bracket of the post-season team competition where they ranked 11th overall in their bracket and placed 27th nationally out of 152 teams from over 108 college/universities in 35 states. The team scored 2,635 points and captured 121 of the challenge flags. For comparison purposes, the national average for this competition was only 1,655 points and just 83 flags.

Pace Cyber Team: 2017 NCL Post Season Extravaganza in Goldstein 321

Even more remarkable, the Pace Cyber Team ranked 1st in their bracket and 4th overall in Wireless Access Exploitation. In addition, the team placed 6th in the silver bracket and 14th overall in Network Traffic Analysis, and 8th in their bracket and 16th overall in Cryptography. Moreover, the team ranked among the top 25 teams in the silver bracket for every challenge category.

Team Captain Kaitlyn Bestenheider said: “I couldn’t have asked for a better team to compete with. We were all strong competitors and had a wide variety of skills. Everyone communicated fantastically, which made it easy for me to share information and delegate tasks to the person whose skills were best suited to the challenge at hand. Our team’s real strength was in its variety of experience and expertise levels. I look forwarded to training and competing again next semester.”

The team competing in the 2017 NCL post-season included:

Kaitlyn Bestenheider (MS/CS ’18), Adriana Aluia (BS/IT ’17), Cesar Castro (BS/IT ’18), Michael Gabriel (BS/IT ’19), Andrew Ku (BS/IS ’20), Norissa Lamaute (MS/CS’17), Benjamin Longobardi (BS/CS’19), and Gabriel Rivera (BS/IT’17).

Congratulations to all for a great performance this season!

The Pace Cyber Team would like to welcome anyone with an interest in cybersecurity to train and compete with us in the 2017 fall season. Contact Andreea Cotoranu, Assistant Dean for Academic Innovation (acotoranu@pace.edu) with questions.

Some of the Pace Cyber Team (January 2017) – back row L to R: Adriana Aluia, Michael Tantalos, Benjamin Longobardi, Andrew Ku, Gabriel Rivera, Mark Rolon, John Guckian; front row: Norissa Lamaute

Want to read more? Check out Kaitlyn Bestenheider’s blog, Kait Tech, for further coverage of the event.

Thanks so much to team captain Kaitlyn for writing this student blog post!

Seidenberg students fight poverty at Google hackathon

hack1On October 8, 2015, a team of Seidenberg students descended on Google HQ for a day of impromptu coding. The event was for a good cause: Techo, a non-profit organization that seeks to overcome poverty in slums, needed some help building an app that would make gathering information about families living in slums easier.

Techo is present in 22 countries in Latin America and works in over 670 slums every single week. It has implemented 450 community working groups thanks to the help of over 80,000 volunteers (with 800,000 volunteers having been involved to date). The organization has built over 105,000 transitional houses and 6,000 permanent houses, which can massively impact the lives of people living in slums. As if all that wasn’t enough, Techo seeks to empower families through education and community-building: 17,000 adults graduated in basic skills training programs and 26,000 children participated in educational programs thanks to Techo.

hack3

Google hosted the event, and representatives from Techo and the television network Univision were there to steer (and record) the hackathon. Pace people present included Jigar Mehta, Dhruvil Gandhi, Virali Jhaveri, Robert Plumly, Vaibhav Dubey, Ethan Garrison, Hana Stanojkovic, Barak Michaely, Eiman Ahmen, Ava Posner, Hardik Patel, Jan Schoepp, Trong Le, Ritesh Pathak, and Preston Rollins.

The problem to solve was as follows: Techo workers collect information about the needs and conditions of the families they help by asking a series of questions. The answers are recorded by hand, and are entered into a database and organized so Techo can establish an action plan. However, due to the strict organization of the questions against the conversational speech style of the interviewees, this method is highly inefficient and keeps Techo from spending more time actually doing the good work.

Seidenberg students were on hand to help fix this problem.

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Techo already has an app that contains the questions, but it needed improvement in order to be efficient. The Seidenberg team split into three groups – one working on the front end, one on the database, and one on the form containing questions itself. Due to the nature of the hackathon, the team only had around 6 hours to work on the project – but they succeeded in improving opening the app, cutting out unnecessary questions and making the usability simpler.

It could be up to Seidenberg Creative Labs to finish the job!

Learn more about Techo and donate!

Pace team takes home the prize at VR Hackathon

Tisch Interactive Telecommunications Program
NYU’s Tisch building where the hackathon was held.

Over the weekend of July 10-12, a team of four Pace students competed against 19 other groups in the NYC Virtual Reality Hackathon, a hackathon that took place as part of the LoNyLa/TimeWave Festival. The Pace team won the Best Wow Factor VR category and brought home a $500 prize!

Pace students and alums Taranjyot Singh Multani (MS CS ’15), Dhruvil Gandhi (MS CS ’16), Avery Leider (PhD CS ’18) and Syed Adil Hasan (MBA Financial MGMT and IS ’16) joined up with Zeev Kirsh, a litigation staff attorney at Paul, Weiss, and Guilherme Pena Costa, a Brazilian programmer who works at McCann Advertising Agency, whom they had met at a Sony sponsored Mega-Meetup the night before the hackathon. The diverse team used their individual skills to dominate in their category during the hackathon – just the kind of interdisciplinary focus we love to see!

The theme of the hackathon focused on “Mythos and Moxie,” an idea derived from the way technology changes constantly and rapidly while storytelling fundamentals have remained the same. The teams were challenged to create a VR platform that transcends technology and opens up users to a more human experience of storytelling, exploring the possibilities of VR technology while doing so.

The team decided to create a kind of virtual island that would incorporate musical features, which users could alter according to their own liking using their movements. The island played four different kinds of music in each corner, and users navigated the island using the Oculus Rift. Depending on how they moved, the music would change in volume, intensity or balance. Users could move around the island to figure out which kind of music they most wanted to hear. The team had originally planned to make movement possible through Dhruvil’s Leap Motion, but faced a big challenge in getting the software and hardware to interact seamlessly. Eventually, they had to cut out the Leap Motion and focus just on using the Oculus Rift and game controllers for movement. Even so, their product was a great success with each of the five judges.

Taran-Avery-Dhruvil-AdilTaran-Adil-Dhruvil

After all the groups showed off their projects, the Pace team received high praise from their category’s judge Chaki Ng, who is also General Manager for Viacom Labs. He stated that the team had successfully captured the essence of the hackathon with their project, and that their project was the most developed and complete out of the presentations that weekend. It turns out that music is a great way to provide an emotionally tangible experience for a user in a virtual environment. The team was delighted to hear this, especially considering the setbacks they had faced during their project. Nevertheless, their story and their content was strong enough to earn them their prize, and we hope they can continue to build on this project in the future to include all the cool features with Leap Motion that they originally wanted to use!

Sponsors for the event included: EEVOFake Love, SonyFreedom 360Leap MotionLittlstarOculusUnity 3D and VISR.

 

Hackathons and a Seidenberg Sweep

Many of our students in Seidenberg enjoy participating in Hackathons, either for learning, the fun of competition, or a range of prizes. Just recently, Seidenberg students Sal Torcivia, Daniel Rings, and Zahid Mahir participated in ‘Hack Upon a Cause,’ a hackathon powered by XO Group, Inc., to develop apps for charities. The three, on two separate teams, placed first in their two different categories.

Sal Torcivia, pictured right, is a junior Computer Science major and ‘Hack Upon a Cause’ was his second hackathon. He mentioned that this was his first time working with strangers, whom he paired up with at the event. Not knowing the people on his team beforehand was an obstacle at first, as they all took time figuring out how they worked best together, but in the end Sal says he enjoyed getting to know other developers.

The hackathons are most often competitive and can last overnight if not longer. ‘Hack Upon a Cause’ was a 24 hour event geared towards creating apps, programs, or websites for four different charities; each charity had multiple teams and would produce separate winners. Sal’s team worked on the website for ‘Wish Upon a Wedding,’ an organization that helps provide weddings or vow renewals for the terminally ill. Sal paired his skills as an experienced WordPress developer with the skills of his other team mates to create a code ad hoc for the charity.

From the other team, Daniel Rings, a senior Computer Science major, spoke of the success he shared with his team mate, Zahid Mahir. The two worked on an app for ‘DayOne,’ an organization that works towards ending abuse in relationships. Daniel worked on the front end and Zahid on back end; the two came as a prepared team, ready to divvy up their work in respect to their fortes. ‘Hack Upon a Cause’ was Daniel’s sixth hackathon. He heard about it through Professor Scharff, who introduced him to the world of hackathon-ing in the first place. Daniel mentions the biggest benefit of competing in hackathons: learning a lot in a concentrated amount of time. All participants leave with new knowledge and a sharper skill set in whatever is what they worked in.

Many of the hackathons around NYC can be found by searching ‘hackathon’ on Eventbrite, or checking in with AlleyNYC.  These hackathons are mostly free and occasionally have an entrance fee, but placing well in a competitive hackathon would be worth a small entry fee.

Graduate Student Nina Freeman attends IndieCade East, shows of game made at SONY Game Jam

Nina Freeman, a graduate student of Computer Science at the Seidenberg School, recently attended the IndieCade East Indie Game Festival after working on her own game at the Playstation Mobile Game Jam. She was kind enough to write about her experience for our blog. Nina’s previously written for our Tumblr about the NYU Global Game Jam and you can read that piece here. Read on ahead for an exciting account of a Seidenberg student developing her own gam

Nina Freeman, a graduate student of Computer Science at the Seidenberg School, recently attended the IndieCade East Indie Game Festival after working on her own game at the Playstation Mobile Game Jam. She was kind enough to write about her experience for our blog. Nina’s previously written for our Tumblr about the NYU Global Game Jam and you can read that piece here. Read on ahead for an exciting account of a Seidenberg student developing her own game.

“IndieCade East, the first time IndieCade has been held on the east coast, took place during the weekend of February 15th. However, for me, IndieCade began the weekend prior with the PlayStation Mobile (PSM) Game Jam. The PSM Game Jam was a weeklong collaboration between Sony and IndieCade that brought together a group of developers based in the New York City area. Our task was to develop games for the PSVita during the week leading up to, and the weekend of, IndieCade East. It was a unique opportunity to take the technology offered by Sony, and to use it to make a game of our own design. All teams were given access to the PSM SDK, a yearlong publishing license for the PSVita, and most importantly to developers that worked on creating the SDK itself. It was exciting to have the help of Sony developers’ in-person, especially because none of us jammers had any experience with the SDK beforehand.

The most exciting and challenging part of the SDK was that it uses C#. I had no experience with C# prior to the jam. Needless to say, by the end of IndieCade I felt like a C# savant. The week leading up to our final presentations was an absolute rollercoaster, during which I learned more about games programming than I ever dreamed of. My teammate and fellow programmer Emmett Butler pair programmed with me for the first 2 days of the jam. I can’t even begin to tell you how helpful the pair programming approach was. It was by far the most productive way we could have taught ourselves C# in such a short amount of time, because we were able to both learn the SDK while also setting up the basic framework for our game. Once we had an understanding of the SDK, we started to build our game, which would come to be called Cybrid 7-x.

Cybrid 7-x was our first response to the jam’s theme of “evolution.” We wanted to create a self-reproducing system, mostly because it was an interesting experiment in code. From that idea came a robot stuck in a garden full of over-zealous plant life. Our game is essentially a flower breeding game in which you try to control the types of flowers that are reproduced. For example, if you plant the rose next to the mushroom, the next generation that spawns will be a combination of the two. The actual reproduction happens when it rains or if you choose to water the plants. The goal is to breed the plant that appears on the computer screen in your garden, and to plant it in the plot below the screen. If you let the flowers get too out of control, they take over your garden and you lose. The game sounds simple, but it took us the entire week, up to the very last minute, to really fine-tune our idea. The Sony developers were extraordinarily helpful in untangling some of our tougher problems. My team found z-indexing within the SDK to be quite the puzzle, but the Sony developers did their best to help us put the pieces together. Having that kind of support during the crunch of a game jam is very encouraging.

I was happy to meet so many talented programmers and designers throughout the jam, from both Sony and elsewhere. It was really rewarding to participate in an event where everyone was so clearly excited about games and making them. Seeing the other teams games at the final presentation was really inspiring. It’s incredible to see what kinds of ideas can come out during the hectic atmosphere of a game jam. I’m a big fan of game jams, and hope to do more in the future. I feel very lucky to have worked with Sony and with my amazing teammates. You can check out our tumblr,donutgoku.tumblr.com, to see some screenshots of the game. If you ever get a chance to do a game jam, go for it! You never know what kind of exciting ideas will come out of it.”

Sounds like she had a great time. Do you have your own Game Jam or Development weekend story you’d like featured on our blog? Shoot us an e-mail to paceseidenbergschool@gmail.com. If you’d like to contact Nina you can reach her at nf20069n@pace.edu nf20069n@pace.edu.