Hackers Compete at NYU Tandon
NYU’s annual hackathon challenged participants to use technology in innovative ways.
Mar 8, 2020
In Tandon School of Engineering’s gymnasium, no table was spared from the barrage of half-finished energy drinks and snacks strewn among computers. Small teams collaborated at these tables to create new uses for various kinds of technology.
This weekend, hundreds of innovators gathered at HackNYU 2020, NYU’s annual hackathon, to compete, strengthen their community and improve everyday life. All three of NYU’s main campuses — Shanghai, Abu Dhabi and New York — competed in the annual event. In Brooklyn, competitors congregated at NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s Polytechnic Institute. The event is open to non-NYU students, and individuals can compete alone or in teams of up to four students or recent graduates.
Hackathons involve using technology for extended periods of time to creatively solve problems. There are four main competitive tracks: sustainability, health and wellbeing, education and financial empowerment. Event chair and Tandon senior Esteban Espana commented on the impact of these tracks.
“[These tracks] go along the theme of using technology for the betterment of society, whether this be through traceability, through transparency, accountability, through bridging existing gaps and making people feel more comfortable,” Espana said. “All of these projects are meant to make people feel better in their daily lives.”
Teams are judged on technical difficulty, originality, polish and usefulness by nine industry experts. $23,229 worth of sponsored prizes are on the line for the teams, with the top three projects in each category winning prizes of up to $200 dollars from Amazon.
Other sponsors provided prizes. Facebook awarded Oculus Go Headsets for the best user experience project. The best sports or fitness hacks got four copies of FIFA 20 and four tickets to a New York Red Bulls Game from Redbull. Meanwhile, the most viable startup gets a chance to pitch to the Contrary Capital CEO in a one-on-one meeting.
HackNYU began on the afternoon of Friday March 6 and ran through Sunday March 8. The building was open overnight Friday and Saturday for those who opted for all-nighters to polish their work.
“It’s amazing what such small teams of people can get done overnight or over the course of two nights,” 2011 CAS graduate and NYU employee Nick Jensen said.
The hackathon is entirely student-led. Espana supervised all of the planning, which began in July 2019.
Stern graduate student Manuel Lombardero was a contestant in the Hackathon and worked with a team to create a program that allows friends to make investment pools together.
“[HackNYU] is one of the best organized [hackathons] that I’ve seen,” Lombardero said. “I really like the vibe here.”
Kamille Tipan, Francis Lewis High School senior, competed in the sustainability track. Her team’s goal was to create a website against fast fashion that curates outfits from ethical sources for shoppers.
With consideration of real-world issues like Tipan’s, Espana commented on the nature and perception of hacking.
“Hacking, because of Hollywood, gets a little bit of a weird sort of connotation,” Espana said. “Hacking really is just using something for a different purpose than its original intention.”
Winners were not announced by the time of publication.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 9, 2020, print edition. Email Emily Glass at [email protected].