Truman students take second in hackathon

Submitted photo

After three and a half years of working together, a trio of friends finally made their way to the stage to take their second place awards in the 2018 TigerHacks hackathon. With every trial, junior computer science majors Tyler Acosta, Katherine Durant and Jeremie Amano’s skills and bond only grew stronger as they attended hackathons every semester.

The mid-October hackathon featured students from across the Midwest challenging themselves and building connections with companies. With only 36 hours to make projects surrounding the hackathon’s theme of journalism, students worked tirelessly to brainstorm and come up with innovative programs to present to a panel of judges.

Acosta and Durant work for KTRM, and this experience inspired their program. The trio decided to create a hack to censor swear words said over the air automatically to avoid fines from the Federal Communications Commission. Acosta said without their experience working at the radio station, they might have never thought of this idea.

Acosta has been programming since high school. Acosta said Truman State University prepared the group for these events through the companionship shared among fellow computer science majors.

“I think the biggest thing that helped us was the camaraderie we share with the other CS students,” Acosta said. “Really having people there to hang out, talk and give feedback was a huge asset for us and our project.”

Durant said the hackathons are important for any computer science major to attend because of the amount of opportunity around every corner. Corporations are looking at the students who attend these events, which can lead to possible internships and full-time jobs to those giving the hackathon a shot. It’s also a great project to list on a resume.

Durant began coding her freshman year of college and said it’s impossible to understand what a hackathon is without attending and participating. Anyone with any background can attend, which means there are tons of different ideas being created.

“The final five teams had people with them who were business majors or graphic designers,” Durant said. “There was this one guy a year ago who didn’t even know any computer science at all and spent the entire time learning. That’s the whole point. You go to learn.”

The trio set up in the science building where several other teams made their spaces to work on their projects. There were rooms designated for sleeping with air mattresses and the lights off, but participants would often take the mattresses to their own spaces to continue working on their projects through the night. Amano said it was interesting seeing how others worked and how their projects turned out.

One of the difficult parts of a hackathon is brainstorming a program to create in the small amount of time given. Amano said even though he created websites and apps in eighth grade, brainstorming and time management can still be difficult to manage for a competition like this.

The group made their program with little error and accepted their reward with proud faces, but, Amano said this was the first hackathon the group didn’t try as hard to win. Rather than going into the event worrying and overworking, they entered confident and prepared to have fun. The group never expected to make the top 5, let alone second place.  

Senior Evan Brooks, Truman’s Association for Computing Machinery president, went around to offer advice to hackathon groups with Truman students. Brooks said Truman helps students learn general computer science knowledge rather than specific, narrow fields, which makes Truman’s CS majors well-rounded.

Brooks said it’s incredible to see Truman represented at these events, especially since this is the second year in a row Truman had students in the top 5 of TigerHacks. It helps spread the word about Truman’s computer science program and network with other organizations.

“If I would have been here as a senior five years ago, I would have been like, ‘There’s no way we’re going to send people to a place as big as Mizzou and have them win a competition,’” Brooks said. “It’s just really nice to see things happening. It makes me proud.”