The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A&M hosts TAMUhack for the fourth year

Photo by Photo by Naren Venkatesh

Over 500 students from multiple universities gathered in the MSC for the 24-hour TAMUhack competition.

Over 500 students from universities in and around east Texas competed this weekend in TAMUhack, the Texas A&M leg of Major League Hacking.
The event began with registrations taking place outside the Bethancourt Ballroom at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The participants then formed teams of up to four members before the 24-hour marathon hack-fest kicked-off at around noon.
Himank Yadav, computer science senior and event director, said the event shouldn’t be viewed as a contest where the participants hack into something, like the traditional sense of the word, but rather a place where students are encouraged to work on innovative coding projects together.
“Participants come together to work on projects and enhance their skills while helping the community around them,” Yadav said. “We aim to provide a platform where people from multiple disciplines come together to create something that they could not have achieved working individually.”
As in all Major League Hacking (MLH) events, the students had access to world-class equipment. They also had mentors in the form of professional engineers from renown companies such as American Airlines, General Motors, Microsoft, Facebook and more. The mentors served as helpers for the participants, offering valuable bits of information stemming from years of experience in the field.
“It is a two-sided thing, really,” Yadav said. “The hackers here had to go through a selection process, creating a talented technical pool which is enticing for the mentors to work with, while the students get to interact with the best in the business and also learn how engineering at a professional company is like — an ideal situation for both parties.”
The event offered a few ways to keep hackers going through the 24-hours. Meals were provided along with coffee and snacks, workshops were hosted by mentors at regular intervals and mini competitions of paper airplane throwing and speed typing were held.
The grand prizes were two round-trip tickets to Europe for every member of the winning team, and other prizes included domestic flights, 4K monitors and wireless headphones, together totalling up o $35,000.
Sunday evening the first prize was awarded to the team of Kevin Dao, Michael Xu and Yamden from University of Texas-Dallas. They worked on a mobile app that uses live Twitter feeds to track natural disaster victims.
“This is the fourth iteration of the annual hackathon and we have a record turnout this year — over 550 students with about a fourth from A&M,” Yadav said. “We also have students from schools all over Texas, including University of Texas-Austin, University of Texas-Dallas and Rice University, while about 10 percent of the participants are from out of state. We even have students from states as far as Florida.”
Muin Momin, computer science junior and the co-director for TAMUhack said planning the event begins a year in advance with a budget of between $60,000-$70,000 and an increasing amount of work gets done as the event draws close.
“We meet regularly for dinner and have fun most of the time we’re together,” Momin said. “It doesn’t feel like we’re working since we’re all friends and we’re all passionate about what we do. We are also currently looking for people to join us in the organizational committee and while it shouldn’t be the reason to join us, speaking to sponsors face to face for these events is a big advantage that we enjoy.”
Yadav said the event is a chance for anyone from any major to come together to work on coding, and also helps students in technical majors work on their craft.
“We also hope that the event is able to motivate technical majors, provided with the kind of tools and resources at an event like this, to work on a project that enhances creativity and gives them a chance to think beyond class projects and assignments which usually involve little to no creativity,” Yadav said.
Grant Brammer, Class of 2007, is now a Senior Developer at General Motors and was a member of the GM mentoring team. Brammer said he has been part of every TAMUhack ever since hearing about the event at a career fair the year after it began.
“We view it as a great opportunity to recruit people here,” Brammer said. “We really look forward to debugging code with the students and love helping freshmen participants with their first apps. It allows us to get to know these students in a way that an hour’s interview would never be able to.”
Brammer said Aggies helping Aggies is one of the reasons why he comes back each year as a mentor.
“It feels great to be away from powerpoint presentations for a change and raise awareness about all the cool stuff that we do at GM,” Brammer said. “My greatest fear is putting a person in the wrong job. It’s not good for anyone involved. This helps us avoid those mistakes.”
Yuriy Minin, electrical and computer engineering senior from the University of Texas, Austin, attended TAMUhack last year also and said the MSC is a great place for the hackathon given the amount of space available. Minin said his team’s project incorporated dance and music.
“Today we are working on an application that uses skeletal tracking and machine learning in order to match a song to the way a person is dancing,” Minin said. “We infer a beat and choose a song for the way you are performing.”
Minin said he has taken part in multiple hackathons before and is confident about being chosen among some of the best hacks this year.
“I am here with my fellow organizers of the Freetail hackathon, the hacking event of University of Texas-Austin and we are very excited about our project,” Minin said.

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