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Image courtesy of HackAD

Hackathon For Our Own Good

“You do something that you’re gonna look back on and be like, oh, I actually did something pretty unique today.”

Nov 17, 2018

In the afternoon of Nov. 10, StartAD Central in the Arts and Humanities Building became the presentation space for Hackathon, HackAD’s 24-hour long coding marathon which aims to take ideas and suggestions and turn them into fully fledged projects. This semester’s Hackathon theme was For Our Own Good, which aimed to provide solutions for problems that students found to be prominent at NYU Abu Dhabi.
This semester’s Hackathon was different to previous editions as it was created in response to a lack of similar events taking place in fall semester; HackNYU, 24X and NYUAD Hackathon are all hosted in the spring every year. Abdullah Zameek, Class of 2021 and Co-President of HackAD, added that this Hackathon was created as a more informal event.
“All the other Hackathons are extremely … bureaucratic. It’s very rigid, the structure, and you’re forced to abide by a certain set of rules and procedures and whatnot, and that kind of drained out the fun in a Hackathon,” said Zameek. “It should be something that rekindles the passion in you, the reason why you wanted to do a tech-related major and have some fun along the way.”
After 24 hours of work and revision, six teams created their own unique projects aimed at improving some aspect of life on campus. The proposals were presented at the showcase and judged by faculty. The three judges included Craig Protzel, Program Head and Assistant Professor of Interactive Media, Yasir Zaki and Jay Chen, both Assistant Professors of Computer Science.
The first project that was presented was an online laundry notification system. The system aims to streamline the laundry process by allowing students to register what machines they’re using and for how long, so that other students can check the application and be able to plan their own laundry times. Students could also report broken laundry machines directly through the app.
“When you go to the laundry room, you register your NetID, your residential building, the machine and then you submit, and once your laundry is done and ready for pickup, you’re gonna get an [email] notification ... that your laundry is ready,” said Domnica Dzitac, Class of 2021, who was part of the team that created this project. “You can check whether there are any machines available, so you just go to your building [in the app] will see what is taken.”
The second project was a food delivery Facebook chat bot, which would allow students to easily order food from either the East or West Dining Hall without having to use phone credit to call in for a delivery. Students could message the chat bot, which would then respond with an appropriate remark and lead students through the ordering process. The application is meant to simplify the ordering process for both the students and staff who are receiving orders.
Another project presented at the showcase was an interactive map of study away locations with added pop-ups for each site that include any and all information aggregated from the Student Portal, various NYUAD Facebook groups and other related sites. Zameek, a co-creator of this project, wanted to take the confusion out of looking for the scattered information about study away sites available to students.
“Most people, they come in undecided and they don’t really know where they want to study away, and because we have a huge choice of study aways these days, you don’t really know where you wanna go,” said Zameek about his project. “[The map], when you click on it, will give you a little pop-up that will just give you the crux of what you need to know about that site, so basically the most popular courses, the majors it’s intended for, things to do around the city, literally everything you’re looking for when going abroad, plus the points of contact.”
The fourth project was an aggregation app which would scrape data from four major food delivery services and compare their current prices of ordering to find the best deal for a given delivery. The application gathers information from Zomato, Deliveroo, Carriage and Talabat and merges it on one platform. The application is already production ready, which means it will likely be deployed soon for students to make use of.
The next project is an application which amasses information about fall and spring break vacation locations across various NYUAD Facebook forums. By inputting a target destination and an estimated traveling budget, students will be able to find information including visa details, things to do within said budget and more.
The final and winning project was inspired by John Sexton’s recent talk Another Octave with John Sexton, in which Sexton mentioned that “if you don’t know the names of the other 2,999 [NYUAD students] and know what they’re doing and know how you could help them, or how they could give you a ladder up, this isn’t working the way it should be.”
From this, the winning team decided to create an application which allows students to meet new people on campus. By inputting your NetID and a few of your interests, the system will then pair you with someone you have not met and send you an email notification with their contact information and your shared interests. Through the use of the NetIDs, students are sure to be matched with someone they do not know yet.
The projects were additionally showcased in Open Studios, allowing teams to gather feedback and suggestions on their ideas from their peers. The participants in the Hackathon were satisfied with the outcomes and some plan to keep working on their projects.
“[Students suggested] all of these cool things that would save up a lot of time and at the end of the day, that’s the point,” said Dzitac regarding the Open Studios showcase. “We’re all students, we’re all busy, we wanna make everything be more efficient.”
“All in all, this Hackathon, especially compared to the four Hackathons from the past year, is hands down the best,” said Zameek. “In terms of the quality of products that came out of it, the judges, and all in all it was what a Hackathon should be. Something that is really chilled out, you go and you have good food, you have fun with your friends, and you do something that you’re gonna look back on and be like, oh, I actually did something pretty unique today.”
Tracy Vavrova is News Editor. Email her at
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