Students create apps for USC in hackathon

HackSC, held from Friday to Sunday, was USC’s first ever campus-focused hackathon competition.

Fourteen teams participated in the competition, which was hosted by the USC Association for Computing Machinery, to create technology products for the general student body.

Creativity · A team prepares for HackSC by building a four-year scheduler application to help students map out their academic program. - Tony Zhou | Daily Trojan

Creativity · A team prepares for HackSC by building a course scheduling site to help students organize the classes each semester – Tony Zhou | Daily Trojan

Aaron Harris, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering and one of the main coordinators of the competition, wanted to create the technological infrastructure that other large universities have. He said his goal was to make USC’s data as accessible to students as possible and to promote a culture of innovation within USC.

“My goal is to encourage students to take charge of their campus,” Harris said. “To have these apps be a part of USC [will] better serve the needs of students.”

The planning of the event started in early September when ACM invited students and faculty to submit ideas for creative uses of technology to improve the system and to increase student wellbeing.

The panel judged the products on Sunday by the following four categories: ease of use, presentation, long-term viability and specificity for USC. The top five teams each received a $100 grant to develop their app further over the following week, during which they must collect from USC students and faculty by hosting tables on Trousdale to demonstrate their products. They will then present their findings, statistics and feedback at a school-wide event at Ground Zero on Thursday at 6 p.m. The winning team will receive a $500 award and support from USC to develop the application further.

Harris, also a HackSC participant, said he hopes these apps will be used at USC to help better serve the needs of students in a meaningful way.

“HackSC is opening the lines of communication between the students’ needs and USC’s ability to meet them,” he said. “One of the overall goals of the hackathon is to create a USC App Store where students, faculty and staff can see which apps can help them better navigate life at USC.”

Christina Chu, a junior majoring in computer science and business administration, also helped coordinate HackSC.

“We hope to make the campus more tech savvy, and we’re targeting both experienced and non-experienced USC students to participate and try their hands at tech,” Chu said. “We wanted new or non-experienced students to have the chance to create something so that in the future they won’t think that technology is something they themselves cannot create.”

ACM also hosted a series of programming workshops throughout last week to better prepare students for the hackathon competition.

Joyce Yan, a freshman majoring in computer science and business administration, said she saw HackSC as a significant way for new programmers to learn.

For the competition, Yan is developing a website application that maps a student’s four-year schedule. She said her product will benefit those who want to add a minor or study abroad but don’t know if they have room in their schedules.

“I think it’s a great way for programmers who are not as experienced to gain experience in real-world applications of programming,” Yan said.

Martin Siron, a freshman majoring in chemical engineering (nanotechnology), is also creating an app that helps students manage their class schedules.

“At first we were going to do a ticketing system for trading football tickets but then we decided to make a website that exports your class schedule to your personal calendar,” Siron said.

Students aren’t only making the apps for practice. Several said they hope to see them used by the university to help the student body.

“I hope USC will recognize the devotion of their students to the campus and will consider incorporating these solutions into their technology infrastructure,” Harris said.

ACM is planning on coordinating a larger hackathon in the spring, in which students from other schools can participate.


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