Writing in the Wild

Hacked! 700 hackers to flood UMass

Originally published October 6, 2016. View the story on the Amherst Here.


Hacked! 700 hackers to flood UMass Friday

Allyson Morin, Contributor

AMHERST — Hackers and tech-savvy students will spend their Friday night in a University of Massachusetts Amherst classroom, and they won’t emerge until Sunday morning.

Nearly 700 students from all over the northeast will set up shop in the Integrated Learning Center on campus for 36 hours of non-stop hacking to compete for prizes at the annual HackUMass event.

HackUMass is a tech competition in which teams have 36 hours to design and develop a functioning software or device.

Friday at midnight, the project-building begins. Teams will forge ahead with limited interruption until the deadline Sunday at 7 a.m, though a midnight surprise event Saturday and catering courtesy of UMass Dining will break up the weekend-long grind.

Event organizers say they expect creativity and innovation once again at this year’s hack-a-thon.

“Last year, one team made a project called ‘Salus,’ which was a phone app that automatically called the police and ambulance if you were in a car crash,” said HackUMass Head Coordinator Hiram Silvey.

The Salus app alerts police and ambulance to abrupt changes in speed that might signify an accident and provided users with an eight-second window to correct a false alarm.

“It really stood out to me as something that could potentially save a person’s life, and it was built in only 36 hours at HackUMass,” Silvey said.

HackUMass released a 2016 promotional video detailing exciting things to look forward to this year, including Makerbot 3-D printers from the UMass Digital Media Lab.

“Tons of students of many diverse majors all come together in the same place and collaborate together and work on phenomenal amazing software and hardware projects,” said Josh Gallant in a promotional video.

“Also they just come there to have a lot of fun learning about tech,” Gallant added.

According to Silvey, participation has grown 30 percent from last year. It is one of the largest student-run events hosted by the university.

The coming weekend boasts a plethora of prizes including FitBit Surge devices for grand prize winners. Eligible submissions may win Amazon Echo Bits, a virtual reality headset, a mini wireless keyboard and Six Flag tickets.

Last year’s grand prize winner was web service Solaropia created by Srinivasan Iyengar and Stephen Lee. Solaropia provides an interface to aid homeowners with initial rooftop diagnostics and give feedback on their home’s solar potential.

Email Allyson at amorin@umass.edu.

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