We told you a few weeks ago about College Park’s all-women hackathon and its focus on increasing accessibility and diversity. Looks like both worked: over the weekend, Technica became the world’s largest female hackathon, with more than 800 participants. The 24-hour event, now in its second year, was organized by University of Maryland computer science students and sponsored by companies like Google, Facebook, Oculus and Bloomberg.
Doctoral students and high schoolers alike worked through the night on their projects — a speech-to-text app to assist communication between people with speech disabilities, an app that uses Amazon’s Alexa to automate the fight against cyberbullying, a quiz-based app that suggests appropriate birth control options and more.
On Sunday, Technical.ly stopped by the participants’ demos and took some time to speak with a few teams of hackers about their projects. Here are seven we found while wandering the aisles. (Technica doesn’t have hackathon-wide winners, but it has a bunch of specific ones, like Best Use of Capital One API and best VR but we haven’t been able to get a list of winners yet.)
“Have you ever woken up in the morning and struggled to find an outfit to wear?” asks Tanya Ravi, a high school senior from Loudoun County, Va. She and her teammates Hana Huie, Raveesha Arora and Hannah Rosen worked used to Java and XML in Android Studio to develop an app they call Wardrobe Randomizer — plug in the day’s temperature, and it spits out a weather-appropriate outfit option you can replicate with items from your own closet.
“We had zero experience with Android Studio before this,” Ravi says. “We just went to the workshop on it here and started working on this.”
Yasmeen Roumie, a NASA augmented reality HoloLens developer intern, is no stranger to the world of hackathons. Back in high school, she cofounded the student-run Manhattan hackathon StuyHacks — now she’s a Fordham University computer science student with about 30 hackathons under her belt.
Both she and 16-year-old developer Akshaya Dinesh have taught girls coding with MIT’s Scratch and connectable blocks. In their project, Code Cubes, “we decided to use VR to add another dimension to that process of teaching,” Roumie says. They used Unity to set up the VR environment, wrote the backend in C# and set everything up on an HTC Vive — for which they spent hours putting together a cardboard-and-duct tape stand. See it in action here.
Struggling to crank out that great American novel for NaNoWriMo? Try Wordcradle — Moriah Bradski and Sharon Chen have been working on the tool since the women graduated high school. (Bradski is now in her second year at College Park, and Chen is studying computer science at Columbia.)
Wordcradle, Chen says, gamifies novel-writing to motivate writers while helping them organize their storytelling process. And yes, it’s free. “There was some software with similar features I was using, and the trial just ended,” Chen says. “It was $200. This is free. So sign up!”
Imposter syndrome is the problem. Fem Feed is the solution. So say CUNY system students Josica Ganesamurthy, Nishat Anjum, Noam Swisa and Natela Khomasuridze.
“We all use Github and StackOverflow, so we just asked ourselves what we find problematic in the tech community,” Anjum says. Fem Feed tackles imposter syndrome by creating a friendly, female, feedback-driven community that values engineering empathy and user experience.
“It’s about giving and receiving actionable, constructive feedback,” Ganesmurthy says. “Not just if your code is broken, but if you’re not comfortable publishing it yet and want someone to look over it first.”
Rockville high school seniors Paloma Zegarra Schmidt and Maddie Franke had never worked with hardware before. But when they looked over Technica’s list of hardware available for loan, they quickly gravitated toward brainwave-sensing headband Muse.
Their Android app, focus, pulls Muse’s EEG data to monitor the user’s concentration. (They worked with College Park neurobiology and physiology major Michelle Yang to grapple with the EEG data.) “Students can use it to adjust their study habits, and teachers can use it to monitor their students’ concentration,” Franke explained. They’d never used Android Studio before, either, and were particularly proud of themselves for jumping that hurdle.
“Is there a TV show you’re watching right now?” Hyein Yoo, a Baltimore-based developer, asked this reporter.
HBO’s “The Night Of” came to mind. She typed the show’s name into Cinema Safe, her team’s web app. The show popped up, pulling show details from the Open Movie Database (OMDb). “Any trigger warnings or content warnings you’d like to add?”
“Oh, yeah. Violence. Drugs. Sexual content.” Each was added to the app’s database, built on MongoDB, where other users could see and vote on the warnings. Eventually, she and her teammates — Alexandria-based General Assembly graduate Hewan Abreha, Baltimore-based developer Eden Ambinder and UMBC student Jay McIntyre — would like to add moderator function and commenting abilities. As it is, Ambinder says, they only finished the app with 30 seconds to spare.
High school seniors Reem Larabi, of Philadelphia, and Shelby Sternberg, of Loudoun County, worked on a Chrome tool that integrates a to-do list and timer into the browser.
“We had a huge scare late last night where the to-do list disappeared when you changed the browser size, and even the best Technica mentor was pulling out his hair over this,” Larabi, who mainly worked on the HTML and CSS, says. “So getting this to a point where it now, where it’s up and running, is something I’m really proud of.”