September 18, 2017

Students Develop Smart Note Taking System, Education Themed Software at BigRed Hacks

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From Friday to Sunday, teams of programmers, designers and students from a variety of backgrounds raced against the clock to produce impactful software. BigRed Hacks, the oldest student-run hackathon at Cornell, drew upon a large number of students from across the country.

“Part of what I feel our mission is, is to relieve tension and show people that you really don’t have to be a genius to have fun and learn things at hackathons. The only thing you need is the will to try,” said Jeffrey Van ’19, a student organizer at the event.

Abhishek Velayudham, a sophomore majoring in computer science at the University of Maryland, College Park, reflected on what motivated him to attend the event.

“We came to BigRed Hacks because of the really great companies which are sponsors here,” he said.

Hackathon rules specified that students could work on their project only during the 36-hour competition, leaving little time for rest or sleep.

“I got around five to six hours of sleep this entire weekend,” said Omkar Neogi, a second year graduate student in computer science from the University of Buffalo.

This year, the theme of the event was education, and students worked on a diverse range of projects that satisfied the criteria.

“We worked on a peer-to-peer learning system that allows the exchange of skills without the need for transferring money,” Neogi said.

One of the projects presented at the closing ceremony was named Cryptoville. It used blockchain technology to optimize transactions between producers and consumers of agricultural products. Consequently, the application eliminated the need for middlemen in such transactions, thus reducing the cost for customers.

Another group created an application that aims to solve language barriers that may exist in a classroom. Named DiLog, the application allowed students to receive both auditory and visual translations in real time from a teacher, without the need for a human translator. It used speech recognition technologies and supported multiple languages.

The closing ceremony ended with the presentation of an application that could direct students toward educational resources with the goal of minimizing distractions. The software, known as Big Red Notes, allowed students to send a picture of their handwritten notes from lecture and receive educational video links about the subject material. According to the group that developed the software, it would reduce the chance of students becoming distracted when they searched for the materials themselves.

Johanna Smith-Palliser ’19, an event organizer, emphasized the importance of having such events.

“The hackathons seen here at Cornell are great collaborative learning environments and we like to open the opportunity to anyone who is available to come,” she said. “It ran really smoothly and that is really because of the support we get from the Cornell CS Department and the CS community here at Cornell.”