NYU Launches AI Hackathon

NYU put student engineers and entrepreneurs to the test with an AI hackathon in which they had to work against the clock to design and pitch ideas.

A team presentation at the Super Hacks competition. Teams worked to create start up ideas involving AI. (Photo by Alana Beyer)

This weekend, the NYU InnoVention Society hosted the university’s first AI hackathon at the Galvanize technology space in SoHo, putting business and engineering students together for a weekend of pitching, coding and mentorship. The Hackathon, dubbed “Superhacks,” helped eight teams create and pitch their ideas to interview for the InnoVention Competition, which will take place in the spring of 2019.

In just two weeks, President of the InnoVention Society and Gallatin senior Tim Nugmanov was able to get Google and Red Bull to sponsor the event, find a venue and get around 60 people to attend the event’s kick-off on Friday.

“I was saying in my opening speech on Friday that we are audacious enough to make people believe that we are not just building products that are built, presented and then stored on the shelf,” Nugmanov said. “[The event] actually lets people build an idea that they can pursue using all the other resources that NYU has to offer.”

Among those working on Sunday were Tandon sophomore Tasmia Anika and Tandon Ph.D. candidate Alberto Chierici. They were working on Chierici’s second business venture, an AI called TOU which makes it easier for insurance agents to connect with their customers during difficult situations.

“We talked about this idea beforehand, but we were focused very deeply on specific parts,” Anika said. “Now that we actually have to present it, we have to focus on everything together. [The hackathon] has helped us view the problem that we are trying to solve as opposed to just someone who’s trying to build something.”

Chierici mentioned that the feedback provided by InnoVention Society’s mentors was helpful for creating their product, as the mentors provided insight that the team would not have been able to find by themselves.

“The mentors gave us a framework and ideas on how to research our idea,” Chierici said. “We were also put in an environment where we were forced to go around and ask for feedback, which was much more helpful than just doing this by ourselves.”

Another promising startup was On!Buddy, a chat box company started by first-year SPS student Yana Kim and second-year SPS student Sudaporn Vittayakul. Kim and Vittayakul found the hackathon to be the perfect opportunity to network with people who could help them bring their idea to life.

“I think it was great to find a team member,” Kim said. “Especially because we are from [the School of Professional Studies], we didn’t have a lot of connections in [the Tandon School of Engineering], which is really crucial to build a product.”

After the last two weeks of planning, and the three-day hackathon, Nugmanov felt grateful that everything went according to plan.

“It’s crazy to see it actually play out,” Nugmanov said. “I think that part — where everyone gathers around and everyone’s ready to start — is nerve-wracking, but it’s also one of my favorite parts because you can feel the energy and see that people are ready to go.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 12 print edition. Email Mansee Khurana at [email protected]

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