Following five years of increasing popularity, HackRice changed semesters and locations this fall in response to requests from sponsors and students. The sixth CS Club-sponsored hackathon was scheduled at the peak of recruiting season, October 14-16, and more than 275 students participated in the event. The new location, McNair Hall, offered better accommodations for speakers, presentations, and around-the-clock coding.
Rice participants were joined by students from 28 universities, including east and west coast schools like Brown, University of Maryland, USC, and UC-Berkeley. Students also flew or drove to Houston from states like Mississippi, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. Local graduate and undergraduate competitors from Houston, College Station, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio rounded out the crowd.
Best Overall Awards
A panel of alumni, faculty, and industry judges selected three teams for the top awards.
First place went to a team of students from Rice and Stanford for Vibez , an app that intelligently analyzes videos and provides summaries in the form of emotional profiles and keywords. The winning team members included Rice sophomores Jacqui Lee (CS) and Tianyi Zhang (EE), a Rice BioE junior, Peter Zilu Tang, and Stanford University sophomore CS student Kevin Q. Li. Zhang said, "I knew Kevin through a friend. She told me Kevin was coming to HackRice so we decided to make a team together."
A team of Texas A&M University students—Josiah Coad, James Gerity and Jay Khatri—took second place for GitStub, a browser enhancement that programmers will love. According to its creators, "GitStub is a Chrome extension using the GitHub API to create a list of recommendations of repositories related to the one being browsed by the user. Results are displayed alongside the current repo, or in addition to a specific user profile, providing a seamless experience that helps you jump off into cool projects relevant to your interests." GitStub also won two sponsor-hosted prizes, the Quantlab Best Console/Command Line Application and the Major League Hacking (MLH) Best Data Science Project.
Third Place went to two University of Texas-San Antonio students, Caleb Barnwell and Nishant Grober, for their ScavengerHuntVR. The game is based on escape rooms, an entertainment trend that requires participants to solve puzzles in order to exit a controlled environment. Barnwell and Grover said, "we built a scavenger hunt environment where one user is inside the virtual escape room and second user guides them with the set of clues they are provided." ScavengerHuntVR also won the sponsor-hosted prize for Facebook's Most Open and Connected Idea or App.
Two Rice seniors, Greg Harper and Jordan Poles, won the prize for Best Hardware Hack for a solution that adds environment-responsive behaviors to devices in personal spaces like dorm rooms and living areas. Dorm Automation Hack (DAK) can use a room's natural brightness to determine whether lights should turn on or off, and temperature levels can be mapped to control a fan. Greg Harper (EE) said, "You could even extend it to water your plants when they get dry!" Double major (Biological Sciences and Statistics) Jordan Poles added, "All behaviors can be programmed using if-then statements."
NextNote, created by five professional master's students from Rice's Computer Science department, won the award for Best Hack for Students. Fushan Chen, Jesse Zhijian Chen, Yifan Li, Jinghao Lin and Dan Wu's note-taking tool auto-fills typing suggestions for faster input and will also provide sorting features by auto-classifying notes written in scratch paper into appropriate 'notebooks.' The team also submitted a second project, LeapMap, that made it to the top six finalists. Chen said, "LeapMap is a software tool that helps you navigate in Google map using hand motion. This means you can free yourself from actually touching the device or using physical input. We based it on Leap Motion hardware."
The IBM-sponsored prize for the Best Use of IoT (Internet of Things) was won by MapMyNews , an app by University of Southern Mississippi sophomore Pujan Pauldel and University of Houston-Clear Lake graduate student Naveen Manoharan. Their app provides visualization of where news is being reported around the globe in a single dynamic world map. Readers can then select the geographic location for details, rather than searching in various lists or other resources.
Guava-Events Simplified was the winner of two sponsors' prizes, the PROS Segmentation and Big Data Challenge Prize and the Capital One Best Use of Capital One Hackathon API award. Guava makes event planning a snap by organizing expenditures and issuing prompts for overlooked items or typical purchases. The project was created by Shubham Naik, a student at the University of California-Merced, and Shelley Pham, a student at CSU-Fullerton. Naik and Pham met one week prior to HackRice, when mutual friends introduced them and the two collaborated on a winning app at Mhacks. Naik said, "We joined each other’s team again when realizing we were going to the same hackathon [HackRice] the following week."
Inspired by challenges faced by a capella groups, Harmonizing is the app that received Indeed's Most Artistic Project or Web Design. Sophomores at Rice and the Illinois Institute of Technology created a platform to choose and blend harmonies for stunning performance results. Emily Hoang (Rice CS) said, "This platform allows users to choose a harmony part in a song, listen to the provided guide, record his or her chosen part and upload it." Tung D. Nguyen, a CS major at IIT, added, "Then different harmony parts from different users will be selected randomly and merged into a big song."
Three Aggies won the MLH Amazon Web Services' Best Use of AWS for Overhear, an app allows friends to listen to the same music at the same time over the web. Students at Texas A&M in College Station, Tyler Durden, Sahil Dhanju, and Juliang Li were inspired by wanting to hear tunes that their friends heard, while their friends were experiencing it. "Overhear captures your computer's audio and streams it live," said Durden.
Four graduate students pursuing their Master's in Computer Science or MIS at Santa Clara University in California received the MLH: Domain.Com Best Domain award for Wayfarer—'Not your parents' travel recommendation system.' Manoj Parihar said, "We've always been loyal users of TripAdvisor, Expedia, Yelp, and other channels when we go traveling to unfamiliar places, It's not always a bad thing for major destinations like Greece or Rome, but the recommendation in general seemed to need a huge upgrade." Udit Desai (also known as Cap'n Jacky) wanted to incorporate the Personality Index API from IBM BlueMix. "We analyze your tweets (default) and figure out your personality to work on what would best suit your kind of travel," he said. Rohit Jacob added, "By doing a layered Sentiment Analysis, we worked our way from scraping our (formerly) favorite sites for reviews, and correlating the Personality Index of the Reviewer as well as the Sentiment of the Review. Based on the correlation, we then recommend a list of places that you would love to be at. Last but not least, we used the Amazon Alexa to be our Travel Buddy giving us cool use cases for a kick-ass conversation." Mahendra Mhatre said, “We also created an iOS application as the first point of interaction keeping a simple UI with a two-page layout to get from what we need from the user, to what you want to see."
Four undergraduate students from different schools collaborated on Keep Your Friends Close, the project that won MLH's Hack Harassment award for the best Hack Against Online Harassment. Lehigh University sophomore Meredith Hoo, University of Southern California freshman John Zeiders, William and Mary College senior Nick Rance and Rice University senior Iqra Dada wanted to create an app to promote healthy relationships on social networks. Hoo said, "Keep Your Friends Close lets users know who they generate the most positive communication with."
HackRice Leadership team University of Oklahoma students Cody Degner and Bailey Hollingsworth won the MLH Watch Dogs 2 prize for the Best Device Privacy Hack. Their project, VR Private Pass, was inspired by a documentary on Edward Snowden that showed his consistent habits of covering his hands or computer with a blanket while typing in passwords. Degner and Hollingsworth took password protection a step further using a virtual reality keyboard. The user gazes at the VR keys, which appear to randomize after each keypress to render head movement tracking meaningless.
Led by HackRice Chair Prudhvi Boyapalli, the student organizers included Abhijeet Mulgund, Anthony (SungSoo) Cho, Avery Jordan, Charles Paul, Hamza Nauman, Josh Bochner, Spencer Chang, Sunghak Nam, Napas Udomsak, Lily Wen, William Wang and William Koh.