Over 1200 attend MHacks 2013; recyclable sorter wins at record-breaking event
MHacks 2013 – the hackathon organized and run by student groups Michigan Hackers and MPowered Entrepreneurship – concluded this weekend with a record 1,214 participants from roughly 100 schools across the country in attendance, making it the world’s largest collegiate hackathon. MHacks took place in the luxury boxes at Michigan stadium, and included the opportunity for students to take the field at the Big House. The hackathon concluded with a demo of completed projects and final judging in adjacent Crisler Arena.
An intelligent trash can that sorts recyclables from garbage won first prize at the 36-hour maker blitz. The team that made “GreenCan” came by bus from the University of Maryland. The students were one of the few groups to make a physical object, rather than an app or a web tool.
Bothered by seeing glass bottles and aluminum cans in the trash even when a recycling bin is close by, classmates Zachary Lawrence, Joshua Drubin and Andres Toro arrived at MHacks with an idea for a single-stream receptacle. The bin they built has a swing top that pivots in a different direction based on the sound an object makes when it hits it. Ping-y cans and bottles end up on one side of a partition and thud-y foam cups on the other, for example.
“I never dreamed of coming here and actually winning,” Drubin said. “It feels unbelievable” – even on six hours sleep total for the past two nights. The GreenCan guys took a cat nap approach, slumbering for 30-minute stints every five hours.
“We’re definitely going to feel it soon enough,” said Toro, as their 10-hour ride home approached.
MHacks was slated to award more than $30,000 in prizes. Organizers haven’t yet released the amounts for each place.
Team tabbr from Carnegie Mellon University took third place with its web tool to search for words in all the tabs open on a computer. Second place went to team Save My Glass, a “head-up” driving display for Google Glass devised by Mike Huang and Justin Feight, juniors in computer science and engineering at U-M. Save My Glass would essentially project a car’s dashboard information through the Google Glass so the driver wouldn’t have to look down to see it. The tool could also use the Glass’s blink sensor to determine if the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel, and if so, vibrate to wake him up. Finally, the tool could use the Glass’s motion sensors to detect a crash and, if one occurred, dial 911.
Google was one of the event’s many sponsors. Baris Yuksel, a senior software engineer there who came from New York to serve as a mentor, was inspired by the hackers’ passion and energy.
“When I look here, I see the future,” Yuksel told the crowd at the awards ceremony. “One of you is going to make the next big thing and the other will make the next, next big thing, and so on. In five years, 10 years you’re going to be the tech kings. You’re going to be awesome. You are awesome.”
Yuksel thanked MHacks organizers who chartered buses to and from schools across the country, and arranged for those beyond driving distance to get airline stipends in order to bring so many students together to create. MHacks organizers urged participants pay it forward, in a sense.
“This was one of the most incredible weekends of my life,” Thomas Erdman, a junior in computer science and engineering at U-M who led the event, told the crowd. “I hope it was one of the most incredible weekends of yours.
“Go home and spread the culture at your schools,” he continued. “We saw so many problems solved in 36 hours! Imagine what we can do in a month, or a semester.”
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