Three computer engineering sophomores battled competitors in a 36-hour hackathon and ultimately took home first prize for a video game they dreamed up on the spot.
From Feb. 1-3, 500 students from universities across California competed in SLO Hacks, the largest hackathon at Cal Poly.
“Its really cool that we had no idea what we were going to end up with and sometimes you come across ideas by complete accident and they turn into really incredible things,” SLO Hacks winner and computer science sophomore Mackinnon Buck said. “The hackathon encourages that and its what happens in the real world. You stumble upon awesome ideas on accident.”
In just 36 hours, the students were expected to have a fully formed idea to pitch in front of a panel of judges.
For the first time, SLO Hacks extended the hackathon’s free admission to students outside of Cal Poly. Donors that made the events possible contributed enough to provide transportation to people outside of the traditional San Luis Obispo community.
“Thanks to our sponsors, we were able to offer free admission not only for Cal Poly students but to students at universities everywhere,” Soha Lim, SLO Hacks marketing team member, said. “This means we will be transporting these other students to San Luis Obispo so they can participate. This will hopefully open up the events to way more diversity in ideas.”
This influx of non-Cal Poly students made SLO Hack’s Small Town Big Ideas hackathon San Luis Obispo’s largest hackathon to date, according to Lim.
Mackinnon Buck, Zach Osterday and Steven Sun won the competition with a game, LineFighter, that reminds users of the classic game, Smash. However, this game takes a fresh look at the idea.
“Part of it was luck. Our initial idea was completely different,” Buck said.
Buck said players can trap an opponent based on the lines they draw around their character.
“You can either trap a person or cut off their head and that’s how you win,” Buck said. “Or you can take the classic win by using your arms.”
However, as the team progressed in the game’s development they realized it would take the user a long time to craft materials with a gaming controller.
“If a user wanted to defeat their opponent with a bomb, they would have to draw a circle with some sort of material, and then fill the circle with an explosive,” Buck said. “We realized as soon as we integrated drawing terrain, it would be easier to trap or draw a line through them. And then we completely forgot about the materials and crafting idea.”
Although teams may be formed at random on the day of the event, the team knew each other through the Cal Poly Robotics Club and had participated in a hackathon before.
“We met and decided to participate in a hackathon last fall. We didn’t place but we realized we liked participating together and wanted to do it again,” Buck said.
The team used their past experience to grow and continue to develop new ideas, leading to their win.
The team plans to continue developing the game and publish it officially in the future, but for now it can be downloaded on GitHub.