Hacker teams from Michigan win recognitions at PennApps Hackathon

Congratulations to the two student teams!

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A group of the students who competed at PennApps.

Two teams of students have won sponsored prizes this fall at PennApps, the largest student-run hackathon in the country in a trip organized by student group Michigan Hackers.

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Cole Kushner, Joe Scherping, Brad Bergeron, and Aaron White with Ken Schmidt of Yahoo!

Four U-M students – Brad Bergeron, Cole Kushner, Joe Scherping, and Aaron White – won Best Mobile Hack for their project, Perimeter. They hacked a power strip and developed a mobile application to control its output. This hack was in the vein of “smart home” systems that allow consumers to have remote granular control over the lighting and temperature, among other things, in their home. The system that the students developed was unique in that it used geofencing to establish a perimeter that defined when an appliance would be switched on or off. For example, if a user were to leave their home, the app could automatically turn off the lights.

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Raj Vir, David Fontenot, and Shiva Kilaru

Three other Wolverines – David Fontenot, Shiva Kilaru, and Raj Vir – walked away with the award for Most Viral App with Hack My Facebook, an application that contributes comedic posts to one’s Facebook account to simulate the user being hacked. Their hack received some high profile recognition, including by TIME’s Techland blog.

In all, more than 20 Michigan students competed at PennApps this fall as a part of the expedition organized by Michigan Hackers. The trip was made possible with support from the Center for Entrepreneurship.

PennApps challenged the students with the task of thinking up a cool “hack” to build during the event’s 40 hour hacking session and to effectively build out that idea into fruition. The Michigan students put together a wide range of hacks, and while most were software-based, there were some hardware hacks.

Jack Wink, a junior in Computer Science and Engineering, was part of a Michigan team that built a bartending robot. “The bartender was controlled via an iPad app. You’d order a mixed drink in the app and the system would dispense it,” Wink noted. He explained that his motivation for building it was largely for the “geek cred” and that interfacing the hardware with an iPad app was a unique implementation for the project. When asked what he learned, Wink replied “We learned a bit about circuits and a lot about pressurizing bottles, but mostly we learned we can build a lot in 48 hours.”

About Michigan Hackers

Michigan Hackers exists to foster a community of individuals who solve problems through the innovative use of technology. The organization hosts tech talks, hackathons, hack nights, mock interviews, recruiting events, and social gatherings. Its end goal is to build and connect the network of talented “hackers” at Michigan with great opportunities, both on and off campus.