What has traditionally been an annual professor-led hack-a-thon became Cal Poly’s first entirely student-organized hack-a-thon on Saturday, Jan. 14.
More than 90 students came together to build cellular apps to solve local community issues at the Camp Polyhacks event at SLO Hothouse.
“There are real problems here (in San Luis Obispo), it’s not just about building an app,” organizer of Camp Polyhacks Jacob Johannesen said.
Traditionally, hack-a-thons promote the collaboration of students across all majors to create a product from an idea to a prototype in only one day. The same concept applies to Camp Polyhacks.
Within 12 hours, teams of six, made up of business, computer science, engineering and art and design students built an app surrounding one of three local problems: energy consumption, trail hiking usage and drunk driving.
“Instead of making the ‘next best recipe’ app, how ‘bout we get community members involved and figure out what problems they have to fix,” Creative Director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Charmaine Farber said.
Camp Polyhacks is the first off-campus, student-organized event centered around community issues affecting the city of San Luis Obispo.
“Oftentimes when you’re building an app, you ask ‘What’s the biggest problem the world faces?’” liberal arts and engineering studies alumnus Johannesen said. “When really, there’s tons of problems technology can solve in your own backyard.”
After 12 hours of work, an expert panel of representatives from General Electric, TransUnion and Amazon allotted each team four minutes to pitch their app and had them participate in a separate two-minute Q&A session.
The winner of the hack-a-thon was Turn Down for Watt, a group that developed an app called E-streak to reduce energy consumption at Cal Poly. The interface is similar to Snapchat: users film a short video of themselves recycling and post it to their newsfeed. From there, they receive points for doing an eco-friendly deed and acquire coupons to stores in downtown San Luis Obispo.
The runner-up team created the app “Go SLO,” which incentivizes students to travel the lesser-known trails in San Luis Obispo. The app would then reward them with the opportunity to purchase unique stickers of each trail’s peak upon completion of the hike.
Placing third in the competition was the team The Brew Crew, with the app “GoGo,” which allows users to acquire points for calling San Luis Obispo company Safe Ride instead of driving home drunk.
All participatns have the option to further develop their app beyond the competition.
Even students outside of the business entrepreneurship concentration found value in the hack-a-thon experience. The idea of building a start-up company from the ground up was particularly inspiring.
“It’s so exciting and you get to manage everything about companies and I want to have that experience,” computer engineering sophomore Christian Johansen said.
Others chose to participate in Camp Polyhacks simply because they wanted to try something new.
“I thought it’d be cool to put something on my resume and portfolio and learn new things,” graphic communications junior Farica Carroll said.
A leadership team of nine graphic communications students and one liberal arts and engineering alumnus worked together to create this sold-out event.
Camp Polyhacks showed how strangers can become business partners in a day.
“It brings people together from business to design to create a product and shows that strangers can come together and build something,” Johannesen said.