Last year, UCI’s annual hackathon event, HackUCI, was a three-day, in-person event held in January with more than 500 undergraduate and graduate students camped out in UCI’s Student Center. This year’s challenge was finding a way to re-create that experience online. “The transition from organizing an in-person to a virtual event was a huge undertaking for the entire organization,” says computer science major Riley Champion, marketing and co-tech director of HackUCI 2021. “Most of us had experience with hosting HackUCI in person, so we were a bit frazzled at first. However, throughout the summer and fall quarters, we prepared ourselves to create an environment that attempted to simulate an in-person experience!”
Their planning paid off Jan. 29-31, 2021, with more than 600 hackers competing for 40 hours from the comfort of their own home, vying for $45,000 in prizes. “The weekend went great,” says Champion. “It was a lot of fun to meet so many new people from places outside of California — some even joined us from out of the country!”
Many of the hacks addressed pandemic living, such as Vaccelerator, which helps users find information on the Covid-19 vaccine, while other hacks offered entertainment, such as Find the Bern, where users compete to find the viral “Bernie in mittens” photo as quickly as possible.
Overall, the weekend resulted in 89 projects, including 22 award-winning hacks. The awards ranged from Best Overall Hack — which went to Givvy, a platform leveraging AI to optimize charitable giving — to the Female Empowerment Hack, awarded by UCI’s Women in Information and Computer Sciences (WICS) to fEMPOWERED, a virtual community in which women can connect and support each other. The AI@UCI club sponsored the AI Hack award, which went to Lecture T-Ai, a system that helps teachers engage with students online through automatically generated questions.
A group of students from UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) received the Shop Small Hack award for their Small Business Finder. The app, by Gregory Sinaga, Ian Harshbarger, Daniel Lowe and Matthew Nguyen, helps users find and support local small businesses.
Another group of ICS student — Anthea Nguyen, Jay Huang and Joshua Costa — teamed up with UCI business major Charles Lu to create pomo-fomo. The app was awarded Best Use of Twilio for its virtual study group environment that uses the Pomodoro (pomo) time-management technique to help students combat their fear of missing out (fomo).
The top two Google Cloud Platform Hacks were Carage, a technology-enabled parking solution by ICS student Vivian Nguyen, and ZotMeal, a UCI dining app by Jingqi Yao, Max Lui and Shengyuan Lu that promotes healthy eating habits.
The full list of award-winning hacks appears online. “The mentors, judges and organizers,” note Champion, “put in all their efforts to make HackUCI 2021 a great experience for everyone.”
— Shani Murray