U-M Weekend Hackathon Was 'Amazing' And 'Epic' And Involved 500 Students

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This past weekend, more than 500 students from throughout the Midwest gathered at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to participate in "MHacks," billed as “The Most Epic Hackathon Ever.”

 A hackathon brings together developers, designers and other technologists who want to spend their weekend coming up with new products and technologies. As an incentive, organizers offered more than $10,000 in prize money. The top three teams will also receive interviews with the venture capitalist firms Lightbank and Detroit Venture Partners. 

The event was sponsored by some of the biggest names in technology, including Facebook, Google, Github and Groupon. The university provided food, energy drinks, music -- even nap rooms. By the end of the weekend, participants had created 126 projects.

Brad Chaiken, a student at Wayne State University who participated, described the event as an amazing experience.

"It was huge," he said. "Buses and buses of students just kept pulling up.”

A hackathon is typically characterized by a sustained effort from the participants. This is not a gathering of developers for a few hours each day. This was a continuous, 36-hour event. 

The weekend kicked off with a keynote presentation at 11 p.m. on Friday evening, and the hacking began at midnight. There were six floors of people hacking everywhere from offices to hallways to auditoriums and stairwells. As the students grew tired, they fell asleep wherever they happened to be coding last. Chaiken described his falling asleep under a table for about three hours.

 “When I woke up, I was surrounded by hackers working around me as if I was not even there.”

At about 2:30 a.m. Sunday, the event staff decided that everyone needed a break, so they organized an outdoor snowball fight. It attracted about 200 participants.

The projects created included social media, developer tools, games, music, and navigation apps. Some of the more interesting projects were:

SpeakEasy
 The grand prize winner. This is a website that translates verbal communication on the fly allowing users who speak different languages to communicate with each other. Anyone remember the Universal Translator from Star Trek? This brings us a step closer to achieving that vision.

Nowcation
Nowcation is a travel search website for those interested in spontaneous vacations. You just tell Nowcation which airport you want to leave from and it will discover the cheapest destinations you can reach in the next couple weeks.

Reroute
Given the crime rate in Detroit, this app might be particularly useful locally. Reroute analyzes crime statistics dynamically while you are walking and provides you with the safest walking route available.

Pay Up
Do you find yourself frequently loaning money to friends and family? Pay Up allows you to keep track of all the transactions within your friend group, and to send reminders when its time for them to pay up. Although one might wonder how far they can expand their audience with their current choice of URL, www.payupbitch.es.

You can browse more of the creations in here.

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