Nick Schiwy

IT Consultant

Nick Schiwy

IT Consultant

Blog Post

Bitcamp Hackathon At University Of Maryland Compiles Successfully

April 29, 2014 News

Since this is the first time Bitcamp was being put together, it was very impressive how student organizers were able to work with university departments to make the event happen and come out in such a spectacular manner. There were 734 participants from several universities throughout the continent in attendance at the event, which was bound to cultivate some really cool and practical ideas, and they did not disappoint. In addition to participants and organizers, there were also several corporate sponsors for the event including Microsoft, Oculus, Booze Allen Hamilton, and many more. The full list of sponsors can be found on the Bitcamp website.

The hacking began at 5pm on Friday evening and participants would have 36 hours, ending on Sunday at 9AM to come up with something new and exciting. Many of the sponsors had their own challenges that they issued to hackers, such as Oculus, who gave anyone who wanted it access to an Oculus Rift and a Leap Motion unit and said that the coolest project would get to keep their Rifts and be given a free spot in line for the newest model when it is released.

Bitcamp Projects

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I had the opportunity to speak to some of the hackers while they were busy hacking away, many of which were extremely sleep deprived, and find out what they were working on. Everything I saw was very cool, including a virtual economy that one student was working on that simulated the creation and destruction of robots. There were creator bots, destroyer bots, broken bots, and of course, raw materials.

As creator bots used raw materials to create new robots (creator or destroyer) the destroyer bots would break down the broken bots into raw materials to be used to make new bots. Very simplistic from some people’s point of view, but it can of course, be make more complex and either way it’s over this author’s head.

Another one of the projects that I had the opportunity to try out was called “Bermuda Triangle” and used both the Oculus Rift and the Leap Motion unit to simulate an underwater treasure hunt. Users control the game using gestures that are recognized by the Leap Motion unit and then the entire world is shown to the user in the Oculus Rift.

I rode around in my miniature submarine in search of treasure and had a very good time. As luck would have it, this project won a prize for “Best Graphics” with an Oculus Rift and they were allowed to keep their new toys to continue their development!

One more project that caught my eye was being developed by three students who were really thinking outside of the box. They were using the flash and camera on any Android-powered phone to calculate the user’s heart rate and then they would use that information to determine and cue a song that a person with that heart rate might want to listen to.

Unfortunately, they weren’t able to find cooperative APIs from any of the major music streaming services to complete their project, but rest assured they will not be giving up on their idea and you might still be able to have your music inclinations predicted with the power of your heart sooner than you thought was ever possible.

Final Judgements

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At 9AM on Sunday, all hacking was put to an end and it was time for the hackers to expo their creations for all of the world to see. There were several judges walking around to see what had been created, as well as many of the companies’ representatives were talking to students about their projects and some people were offered jobs simply because of what they were able to create in the course of a weekend.

There were 8 projects that were selected by the judges to be a part of the showcase during the closing events. They comprised of various projects throughout the show that the judges thought were the most impressive things that they had seen during the event. Those projects were (in no particular order):

  • “Swarm Mapping With Oculus Rift”
  • “Arduino Game-tron”
  • “6th Dimension”
  • “Textate”
  • “LanguageSMS”
  • “Ironman”
  • “Keyboard Punch”
  • “Breath It”

All of these hacks were very cool and could actually be used to do some very practical real-world things. If you want to learn more about each of these hacks and see their demonstrations, check out the public link to the recording of the event. The showcase begins at about 3:33:00 in the video as it currently exists.

All of the sponsors at the event were very pleased as well, many of them giving out more prizes than they originally intended. Oculus was so impressed with the hacks that they saw using the Rift, that they let all of the teams keep their devices for future development and many teams were given free pre-orders for the next iteration of the product.

Hackathons are a really great way to spark ideas in a very short period of time that can actually change the way that we do things, which is why these contests are becoming increasingly popular. For more information on hackathons or Bitcamp, check out the websites linked below!

Website: Bitcamp
Website: Major League Hacking

Thanks, Josh!

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