Austin C. Hayes, Staff Writer

“My interpretation of the Hackathon is a learning experience. It is an opportunity for all of us to come out here and explore current technologies. Technologies like Blockchain,” said Nicholas Armocida, senior, information systems, the president of the Information Systems Mentoring Club at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“Technologies that are so new and haven’t been brought to the current programs at UMSL. This is a way to push the barrier on technologies that are out there but at the current time don’t make it into the coursework,” Armocida stated as he waited for the start of the second annual UMSL Hackathon.

The second UMSL Hackathon was directed by Mohamed Langi, graduate, information systems, and was held in the university’s Express Scripts Hall room 204. The event was held February 16 through 18 as an overnight event with catered food and concessions for participants. To meet room accomodations for eighty-five participants, the Social Science Building was also rented to the Hackathon group.

“It’s going to be fun,” faculty facilitator professor Dinesh Mirchandani said.

Langi founded the Hackathon almost a year ago, with friends Stuart Ashby and UMSL alumnus Katherine Mierek. The idea came to them at Global Hack, a mission-focused group of entrepreneurs that wish to drive social impact in a technological ecosystem. Launched in 2013, Global Hack has been a success. It has brought ideas of technology to our own UMSL students and alumni. Participants were guided with professional mentoring in structuring their applications to ensure a learning environment. Global Hack was sponsored by 1904 Labs, Mastercard, Lockerdome, and UMSL’s business information systems program. Their goal was for the participants to gain valuable, diverse skills in specific environments; environments that they would encounter day-to-day in the professional world.

“It’s fun to work in a team. Gaining experience for my college major,” Mary Gonzalez, senior, information systems, expressed.

The goal for each team was to build an Application Programing Interface (API). An API is used by most companies to transfer data between applications. APIs provide specific data over the web and help build software applications. The teams had rules to guide them in constructing their APIs. All communication exchange that took place between staff members and participants was on the application Slack.

Various problem statements were given for building the APIs. Without the nitty gritty, students were making ideas that work with Data.gov, Linkedin/Indeed, Youtube, and some of their own innovations. As the teams registered, Rebecca Craine, senior, information systems, and Nicole Gaehle, graduate, information systems, were handed a free tee shirt that stated, “# got api.”

“I was at Global Hack. This is how this whole thing came about. I was at Global Hack 6. This was the starting point. Me and three of my friends,” said Langi, who now is a consultant at Slalom consulting.

Prizes for the top three teams included the first place prize of an Apple TV and Amazon Echo; second place was a Chromebook, and third place was a FitBit Charge 2. There was three thousand dollars in prizes all together, and last year’s winners were in the hunt this year: Chau Tran, graduate, information systems; Kyle Hopfer, senior, information systems; and Justin Reusnow, senior, computer science. The Pace Boiz had new additions, Hamad Alquait, senior, information systems, and Michael Lacy, senior, information systems. The Pace Boiz team looked ready to defend their title opening Friday night.

“We’re Skynet, and we just wanted to build an app that works. We didn’t get as far along as [we] would’ve liked, but it’s the name of the game,” Gavin Meier, senior, information systems, for team Skynet explained as the final announcements came out.

Other teams were just as eager for a chance to win, like Armocida’s team Banana Sloth, who took third place,claiming the FitBit Charge 2 at Sunday’s closing ceremony. There were four judges from different companies.First place went to UMSL’s Pace Boiz for the second year.  Second place went to Not-A-Hot-Dog.