Second Annual America East Hackathon Generates Wealth of Ideas

BOSTON (November 7, 2017) | On November 4-5, some of the brightest young minds in entrepreneurship, engineering, and technology came together to participate in the second annual America East civic hackathon. Created and organized by the America East Academic Consortium (AEAC), the 24-hour coding competition challenged students enrolled at America East member universities to build software and hardware projects that address the real-world challenges facing our neighborhoods, cities, states, and country. This year, students were specifically asked to work toward developing technological solutions to issues in the areas of cybersecurity, education, environmental sustainability, and health and wellness.

Hosted by UMass Lowell, with support from the university’s DifferenceMaker program and Major League Hacking, the event saw more than 120 undergraduate and graduate students from across the America East Conference apply their technical and creative skills in a fast-paced, collaborative learning environment. On Saturday, students gathered in UMass Lowell’s O’Leary Library to form teams, brainstorm project ideas, and begin the development of their projects. On Sunday, after many students worked through the night, projects were presented to academic and industry judges.

In addition to the UMass Lowell DifferenceMaker program and Major League Hacking, BAE Systems, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, Circle Health, and the UMass Lowell Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences all actively participated in the event. The BAE Systems’ team of industry experts delivered a technology talk on augmented reality, provided students with access to HoloLenses for use during the event, and shared their knowledge and expertise with hackathon teams. Molly McGuire, one of the company’s software engineers, enjoyed seeing the hackathon’s impact on both participating students and the involved universities. “We were very impressed with the quality of the event and the quality of the students who chose to participate.”

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, looking to encourage the development of a web or app-based platform that would assist individuals and/or organizations use energy and natural resources more efficiently, sponsored one of the hackathon’s awards, the “Cleantech Prize.” The $500 award was presented to University of Maine students Jacob Hall, Megan Howes, Stan Small, and Brenton Wilson for their app, Eco Pal, which provides a communal space that supports environmental action. In the coming months, the team hopes to obtain additional funding to support the app’s further development.

Circle Health also sponsored an award, the “Opioid Epidemic Challenge Award,” which generated project submissions from University at Albany, Binghamton University, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and UMass Lowell students. The award ultimately went to Agatha Turyahikayo and Gabrielle Watson of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Tasked with developing an innovative opioid prevention platform for teens, the students designed an app that connects teens in need of help or with a desire to help others. The UMass Lowell Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences presented the event’s “Digital Health Award” to UMass Lowell students Chris Berns, Marvin Fung, Ross Hall, and Amy Mazzucotelli for their app that encourages a collaborative approach to meal preparation.

Other awards included the hackathon’s “Best Cybersecurity Hack” award, which went to Binghamton University student Joshua Rosenthal for the development of a cyber education tool for elementary students. UMass Lowell students Matthew Pelland and Stephen Blake walked away with the “Best Education Hack” award for developing an intuitive three-dimensional graphing visualizer designed to help students understand the relationship between equations and the three-dimensional graphs such equations create. The event’s “Best Beginner Hack” award, recognizing the efforts of a team comprised entirely of individuals new to the hackathon world, was presented to UMass Lowell students Chhayout Chheou, Hansel De La Cruz, Rushabh Doshi, and Thomas Tawadros. Major League Hacking also recognized University of Hartford students Eric Sims and Robert Stolarz and UMass Lowell students Yassir Kanane and Nicholas Quinn for their use of, as well as UMass Lowell students Mayur Khatri, Brandon Karl and Serey Morm for their use of Amazon Web Services.

Juliette Kenny, executive director of the AEAC, expects the hackathon to become a mainstay on the AEAC’s calendar. “Providing students with a forum in which they can collaboratively generate usable solutions to pressing issues, learn about new technologies, overcome technical difficulties, and interact with industry experts represents a tremendous learning opportunity. The breadth and quality of ideas at this past weekend’s event speak to the intellectual ability of America East students and are evidence of the strength of the academic programs at America East member universities.”

Photos from the event may be found here.

About the America East Academic Consortium: Established in June 2014, the America East Academic Consortium (AEAC) is dedicated to facilitating inter-institutional academic and administrative collaboration between the nine universities that comprise the America East Conference, a Division I intercollegiate athletic conference based in Boston, MA.  The AEAC proudly identifies the following universities as its members: University at Albany; Binghamton University; University of Hartford; University of Maine; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; University of Massachusetts Lowell; University of New Hampshire; Stony Brook University; and University of Vermont.