HackGT promotes student innovation

Photo by Monica Jamison

This past weekend, Tech hosted HackGT, a hackathon that attracted 800 students from all over the country.

HackGT brought designers, software developers and engineers  together so that they could collaborate on projects of all different types.

Participants explored and built several unique and creative ideas, ranging from a “smart umbrella” that figures out its own optimal angle to an app called Touristr, an adaptation of Tinder for tourists.

The winner of the event, called PickMeUp, was an app that analyzes your text messages for “sad” keywords and suggests locations for the user to go to. PickMeUp uses natural language processing, a field concerning the interactions between computers and human languages.

HackGT was organized by several Tech students who were excited about the prospect of creating an event for motivated students to develop creative projects.

“We thought that it was important for people to have tangible success at events that fostered building and practical learning,” said Pavleen Thukral, one of the co-directors of the event. “We wanted to bring that so close to home that it completely changed people’s way of thinking about education.”

According to Thukral, events such as HackGT are crucial to the success of a school like Tech. In his opening speech at the event, Thukral said, “Georgia Tech is the number one return on investment. This is a fact everyone on our campus knows…everyone is so focused on getting that return…Nobody is concerned about what academia is really all about, and that is arming yourself with a body of knowledge that will make you a truly great and educated person.”

The idea for HackGT was born from Hack@Tech, an organization Thukral started after working with several members of Startup Exchange. A week later, Thukral met Shehmeer Jiwani, the other co-director of HackGT. While Hack@Tech initially sent students to different hackathons across the country, they had the idea to bring the innovation to Tech.

“Hack@Tech turned into HackGT after we realized there was such a huge problem here,” Thukral said. “I met seniors and juniors at HackGT that told me it was the first time they ever actually built something from start to finish. That’s insane.”

Amier Naji, a third-year CS student at Tech, was one of the participants at HackGT.

“I’d never really been into the whole hackathon thing,” said Naji. “I thought that since this was close by it would be a great way to see what it was like. .”

Naji, who competed at HackGT with a group of three friends from high school, listed several reasons that students attended HackGT.

“Some people go in with an idea they’ve had and work with that, some people just go in and improvise and then there’s the people who aren’t really there to work on something new. They just use the atmosphere and sense of urgency to help them finish something they’ve already started,” Naji said.

Overall, several students said  the event was successful, providing opportunity for developers to interact in a creative environment.

Because HackGT was the first of its kind of event on campus, the organizers are especially proud of how successful the event was.

“I really think we’ve sparked something here…[HackGT] will be a proving ground for students to come hone skills they wouldn’t have even cared about otherwise because there’s no grade attached,” Thukral said.