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HackPrinceton attracts over 600 participants

The winners of this weekend’s HackPrinceton were Derrick Dominic ’15 in the software category and Chen Ye, a student at Brown University, in the hardware category.

Hansen Qian ’16, who helped organize the event, said that EchoCast, the culmination of Dominic’s work, is an application which allows individuals to send information wirelessly over high-frequency sound waves.

Ye’s hardware, AirBike, involves a wireless electronic lock and an iPhone application to allow individuals to rent and borrow bikes from each other. With AirBike, Qian explained, renters would find bikes nearby, unlock them electronically and simply relock the bike with the application in a different location once they are done using it.

Dominic and Ye could not be reached for comment as of press time.

HackPrinceton took place between March 28 and March 30 and provided an opportunity for students from the University and other colleges to build, create and hack using either software or hardware. The first prize in software was $1000, a Wacom tablet, and Nvidia Shields – a gaming system -, and the hardware prize was $1000 and Bose headphones.

Adam Yabroudi ’15, who worked with Qian to organize the event, explained that a major change in this HackPrinceton was the effort the team made to reach out to more University departments in order to increase campus involvement and build awareness.

“It’s not just smart people or even COS people,” Qian said. “It’s anybody who’s interested and wants to try something new and have a really fun weekend.”

HackPrinceton has grown in popularity since its first run roughly five years ago, Yabroudi said. Qian explained that although HackPrinceton was one of the first hackathons to take place in a university when it started, hackathons are now growing more popular. While November’s HackPrinceton event had over 500 participants, this HackPrinceton had over 600.

Yabroudi explained that the organizers of HackPrinceton hoped to encourage Princeton students and complement their theoretical education, particularly in the science departments, with practical, hard skills.

“These students are immersed in real problems, making real solutions, totally up to their own creativity,” he said. “We give them the platform, the tools and the opportunity to jump in the deep end.”

Computer science major Saahil Madge ’16 explained that HackPrinceton provided valuable and interesting resources for participants to experiment with in addition to the hacking experience.

“They had a bunch of fancy toys and motion control for the computer that you normally have to pay a decent amount of money for,” he said.

The event also included events with invited speakers such as Stephen Wolfram, founder and CEO of Wolfram research, and Ariel Hsing ’17, the youngest national table tennis champion in history and a participant in the 2012 Olympics.

The talent and ambition that student participants demonstrate throughout the weekend was “incredibly energizing,” computer science and public affairs professor Ed Felten said. Felten, a speaker and a spectator last weekend, was a judge in a previous HackPrinceton event.

MIT teammates Ankush Gupta, Jin Pan and Katie Siegel said that HackPrinceton appealed to them because of its convenient location, considering that some hackathons are as far as California.

“You get to make cool stuff and get that sense of instant satisfaction.” Siegel said with a smile. “Got to throw in at least one all-nighter to shorten my lifespan right?”

The Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, Associate Director of Athletics/Event Operations Karen Malec, the electrical engineering department, the Keller Center, the computer science department and the School of Engineering and Applied Science were the biggest contributors throughout the planning process, Yabroudi and Qian said.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the name and class year of Adam Yabroudi ’15. The ‘Prince’ regrets the error. 

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