UC student teams cracking codes for change at MakeUC event
1819 Innovation Hub serves as hackathon headquarters
The University of Cincinnati’s 1819 Innovation Hub became ground zero for the third annual MakeUC hacking extravaganza.
Within the sleek confines of 1819’s cutting-edge technology, an army of overnight hackers unleashed a wave of innovation, turning laptops into digital canvases and transforming the ESports Innovation Lab into a virtual battlefield. In the Makerspace’s hidden lair, 3D robotic models were forged — all for a good cause.
In a nocturnal frenzy, UC student teams converged to crack codes and create digital apps. Their mission? Crafting websites and hardware aimed at revolutionizing green tech, education, social issues and security.
Katy Hildebrandt, the director behind the 2023 MakeUC Hackathon and a fourth-year electrical engineering student, marveled at the diverse crew of over 300 students who collaborated and clashed, creating software and hardware with the power to change lives.
“For the first time since the hackathon’s inception, the 1819 Innovation Hub hosted MakeUC, transforming plush corporate spaces, the state-of-the-art ESports Lab and the Makerspace into a hacker’s paradise for a relentless 24 hours,” she said.
Throughout the weekend, strange utterances like open-source chip design, backend development, Python-created code and an introduction to APIs using Postman were examples of a coding language most participants seemed to oddly understand.
The hum of coders building digital web apps was intercepted by the buzz of techies wielding 3D printers, laser cutters and computer numerical machines inside the 12,000-square-foot Makerspace.
But it wasn’t all work. throughout the whirlwind, teams indulged in catered box meals and round-the-clock snacks, while also fueling their relentless pursuit of excellence with energy drinks that kept their adrenaline pumping.
As the night unfolded, coders engaged in activities like a Bob Ross virtual painting class, creating "happy little trees" using digital design tools.
Amid the refreshments, games and high-stakes competition, Tanishq Jadhav, a first-year computer science prodigy and member of the AmbuAlert app team, couldn't contain his excitement, stating, "This 1819 building is a powerhouse of energy and positive vibes. The sheer tech spectacle here excites and motivates me."
“We had a hard time getting started on how to design our prototype, but after spending a short time in the ESports Lab playing video games, the idea suddenly struck for how to go forward to create our AmbuAlert, a map app that helps alert ambulances to clogged traffic or accidents so they can take alternate routes to get to their patients and to the hospital faster,” added Jadhav.
Comparing this year’s MakeUC Hackathon to its predecessor, Long Pham, UC second-year mechanical engineering student and member of the MedMentor team, was in awe at the transformative effect of the 1819 facility.
Pham, whose team designed the MedMentor app to help diabetic patients find a more affordable solution to medical care, exclaimed, “1819 has the Makerspace, ESports Lab and more private meeting spaces than last year’s hackathon, which creates a more efficient event for all the students.
“The ambiance and environment here beat a large campus room any day. In this setting, I feel more like an actual engineer, immersed in a real corporate team atmosphere.”
A prolific win-win
Sponsors like IBM, Elevance Health, Infinera, Northrop Grumman and Fifth Third Bank stood shoulder to shoulder with FIS, Kao, Microsoft, CincyTech and Great American Heritage Group to mentor and challenge the hackers. During the process, students also seized the opportunity to pitch to the companies for coveted co-op positions or full-time offers.
At the end of the adrenaline-fueled event, the weary teams presented their projects to judges, competing for prizes totaling over $20,000 in value.
The "Buycott" team emerged triumphant, not only winning first place overall but also taking top honors in the Social Issues category, garnering awards including an Apple watch, Meta Quest 2, Nintendo Switch, Asus gaming monitor, Arduino starter pack and Astro A50 gaming headset.
Awards were presented to the victors in a number of sponsored challenge categories, as well as the top three projects in each of the four tracks, and ultimately the overall top three projects ranking first, second and third place.
Jesse Lawrence, director of partner success in UC's Office of Innovation, summed it up, "This wasn't just a hackathon — it was a riveting saga of innovation and ambition, and UC's 1819 Innovation Hub was the beating heart of it all."
Featured image at top: MakeUC Hackathon student teams gather around a video screen in UC's 1819 Innovation Hub's ESports Lab. Photo/Melanie Schefft
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