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Nov. 4, 2013 8:45 am

Brazilian exchange students win at Morgan State University hackathon [EVENT]

It was the second Baltimore city hackathon in the last year co-sponsored by the national Black Founders organization.

Winning team RFID Settings. From left: sophomore Pablo Silva, sophomore John Rinehart and junior Danilo Rosa.

Three Brazilian exchange students to Morgan State University took home first-place honors — and $500 — at this weekend’s Morgan State 24-hour-long hackathon.

Organized in part by the three cofounders of startup Given.to, all of whom are Morgan State graduates, it was the second Baltimore city hackathon in the last year co-sponsored by the national Black Founders organization, whose mission is “to increase the number of black entrepreneurs in tech events,” according to Hadiyah Mujhid, a Black Founders cofounder. In April, Morgan State was one of three stops in Black Founders’ inaugural HBCUHacks Tour, in addition to Morehouse College and Howard University.

About 20 students split among four teams participated in the weekend’s hackathon, which wasn’t limited to Morgan State undergrads. Students from the Community College of Baltimore County and Prince George’s Community College also participated. Some students, said Given.to’s Sam Henry, stayed awake the whole night working on hacks.

Hackathon participants after Demo Day on Saturday.

Hackathon participants after Demo Day on Saturday.

The winning team, pictured above, was RFID Settings.

  • It’s a hardware and software hack for Android phones equipped with NFC (near-field communcation) readers. RFID Settings was the Android app they programmed.
  • Using RFID (radio-frequency identification) cards that they programmed, the three hackers were able to change the settings of an Android phone without pushing any buttons. One RFID card turned off the WiFi and Bluetooth on the phone. Another, the phone’s 4G.
  • With not yet programmed RFID cards, and working through the app, Android phone users would be able to make individual RFID cards correspond to the phone settings they wanted. It probably shaves just a few seconds from a person’s pushing of mobile icons, but it’s a nifty trick. One RFID card placed at the office could, just by touching the phone to the card, turn off the phone’s volume and WiFi.
  • For taking first place they received a $500 cash prize, as well as an in-person meeting with Matt Gillis, executive vice president of engineering at Canton-based global mobile advertising firm Millennial Media.

The students, Pablo Silva, John Rinehart and Danilo Rosa, are studying at Morgan State through May 2014. Next summer each will take an internship in their respective fields of study — information systems for Silva and Rinehart, computer engineering for Rosa — before returning to Brazil in late August.

The other three teams formed at the Morgan State hackathon:

  • In second place, with a $250 cash prize, was Cognition, a five-person team that produced a platform for bundled games. A “core” offering, they said, would be 10 games for $3. The one game they finished, “Bloodstream,” makes players pop (by tapping) and slice (by swiping) infectious blobs swimming among white and red blood cells at varying speeds.
  • In third place, with a $100 cash prize, was Wear This, the one team where women hackers were represented, with two. It’s a “weather, wind, humidity” Android app that tells the user what clothes to wear depending on the conditions outside. Think meteorologist’s Justin Berk’s KidWeather app, but for more people than just kids.
  • The final team, which is receiving a startup book purchased by Given.to, was Deck of Cards. This three-person team had only one coder, so the project was unfinished, but the idea was to have one app that allowed users to play multiple card games, as well as create their own card games.
Cognition, about one hour before Saturday afternoon's project demos.

Cognition, about one hour before Saturday afternoon’s project demos.

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Andrew Zaleski

Andrew Zaleski is a freelance journalist in Philadelphia and the former lead reporter for Technical.ly Baltimore. Before moving to Philadelphia in June 2014, he was a contributing writer to Baltimore City Paper and a Tech Check commentator for WYPR 88.1 FM, Baltimore city’s National Public Radio affiliate. He has written for The Atlantic, Outside, Richmond magazine, Washington City Paper, Baltimore magazine, Baltimore Style magazine, Next City, Grist.org, The Atlantic Cities, and elsewhere.

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  • Jeremy Collins

    Great article! As a Morgan student (I actually covered the event for the school paper), it feels good to see activities like this.

  • Janessa Elliott Scott

    Awesome! Congratulations everyone! This is really neat