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WildHacks Unites Nearly 500 Student Hackers

Northwestern’s largest intercollegiate hackathon took place Nov. 18-20

By the hackers and for the hackers.

That was the credo behind this year’s WildHacks, Northwestern’s largest intercollegiate hackathon. Designed around the theme of “Build-Your-Own Hackathon,” the third annual event put its participants in the organizer’s seat. Through a series of surveys, the hackers selected the food, prizes, activities, speakers, and more.

“A lot of hackathons provide really great resources for students to come and work on great projects, but the resources and activities are usually just set up by the hackathon organizers and the attendees have to go with it,” said Joshua Shi, co-director of WildHacks and junior in computer science. “We wanted to really engage our attendees this year and get them involved with more than just hacking.”

The theme certainly seemed to work. This year’s event drew nearly 500 college students from all over the United States and Canada, traveling from as far as Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Open to students from all colleges and universities, the 24-hour hackathon challenged teams to create web, desktop, and mobile computer projects.

Organized by HackNorthwestern, Major League Hacking, and EPIC, an entrepreneurial student group sponsored by the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the third annual WildHacks took place Nov. 18-20 and was completely free of charge. Major sponsors included Trustwave, dough, IMC, Tanvas, AT&T, Clarifai, and Ford, which also provided mentors to help the students turn their hacking dreams into reality.

At the end of the event, teams presented projects, which a panel of judges scored based on four criteria: originality, technicality, design, and usefulness.

A team from MIT won first place and $2,000 with Stegosaur, a Google Chrome extension that animates static screenshots, allowing users to interact with them. A Northwestern team took second place and $1,500 with EarBuddies, a technology that automatically starts playing music when users lift their headphones and then pauses music when the user removes their headphones. A team from the University of Illinois placed third and received $1,000 for EmoMe, an application that tracks users’ emotions over time and displays them as video.