During a 36-hour event that broke records for the fourth year in a row, nearly 1300 university students gathered virtually September 25-27 to participate in ShellHacks, Florida’s largest hackathon held annually by FIU during the fall semester.
Many of the participants were students from FIU’s College of Engineering & Computing and other universities from across the state. This year’s virtual setting, however, allowed students from around the world to also join in on the fun.
Organized by Upsilon Pi Epsilon, FIU’s largest technology-focused student organization, this year’s ShellHacks featured seven tracks that provided participants with a unique opportunity to learn about the latest technologies in engineering and create innovative solutions to problems in our community.
“We are so proud of what ShellHacks has become,” says FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “This event is empowering students from all backgrounds, especially those from underrepresented groups, to explore the field of technology and find professional success in tech. ShellHacks provides highly motivated, tech-savvy students with a unique opportunity to showcase their talents while engaging top industry recruiters, which can open doors to exciting internships and job opportunities upon graduation.”
At the start of the weekend hackathon, students participated in a team-building exercise via Hopin, a virtual venue platform with multiple interactive areas. The exercise allowed attendees to form small teams to engage in learning about areas such as web development, mobile development, artificial intelligence, game development, information technology, hardware and design and project management.
Each track featured a series of workshops that guided students through the development of innovative tech solutions to a series of social problems. The student debt crisis, COVID-19 pandemic and natural disaster recovery efforts were among some of the real-world challenges that attendees worked to address. Students engaged in the implementation of machine learning algorithms, code building, development of interactive mobile applications, website design and game creation. One team focused on defining best practices around the use of Google’s cloud platform, while another worked on a “Best Hack for Social Good” challenge hosted by JPMorgan Chase & Co. At the end of the weekend, 43 sponsor-led workshops were hosted, and 241 projects were submitted.
“The students did an amazing job navigating the lifecycles of the different projects and came up with amazing solutions to the complex challenges our sponsors presented,” says ShellHacks co-director Kevin Losada. “We had a record number of highly innovative projects submitted that genuinely impressed our sponsors.”
The Farsense team won first place for developing a disaster mitigation device that collects weather data, including outdoor temperatures, humidity, wind speed and biometric pressure. The data is then used to populate a dashboard that helps experts predict damage and come up with targeted mitigation plans in response to a natural disaster.
Social Distance Beer Pong won second place with a fun, well-executed game that allows users to play beer pong from safe distances in response to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.
The CloudPlate team won third place for building a scanning product designed to help car service providers minimize customer wait times by streamlining the vehicle intake process at service centers. The innovative scanner allows providers to store general data and maintenance history on vehicles by license plate. When a car pulls up to a service facility, its tag is scanned, and the stored data is quickly retrieved for mechanics.
“I am a computer science major, and an event like ShellHacks is invaluable to someone like me,” says FIU engineering student Antonella Avogadro. “Not only are we given an opportunity to work on amazing, real-world tech solutions, but we are also able to showcase our skills and talents before top industry recruiters. That level of engagement is far more impactful than submitting a resume with the hopes of getting a callback.”
This year’s ShellHacks was supported by more than 50 sponsors, including tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter. Other notable sponsors included Amazon, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Xbox and State Farm. Aside from learning while having great fun, participants also competed for a chance to win more than $20,000 in prizes.
The next big hackathon event, Global Game Jam®, will take place January 29-31, 2021. GGJ is the world's largest game creation event that focuses on development. Earlier this year, more than 115 countries were represented and approximately 9,600 games created at the 2020 Global Game Jam®.