HackUTA Creates Student Bonds Through Tech Challenges

There were a lot of excited HackUTA participants in the Science, Engineering, and Innovation Research Building, even though they had been working for 24 hours straight.

Hackathons are competitions where up to four people work together to plan, build, and present a tech project in 24 hours. The 2023 winner of HackUTA was the project Moist Meter, which used sensors and software to find moisture in a person’s home and figure out how likely it was that mold would grow.

According to the source, People from the University of Texas at Dallas to Oregon State University were among the 484 people who came from all over the country. This year, over 100 more people took part than the year before. It was worth all their hard work because Moist Meter won 3D printers. There were also computer monitors, VR headsets, mini projectors, Nintendo Switches, AirPods, and more as prizes.

The event had a lot of different awards, some big and some small. There was the main award for the overall best program, and there was also the State Farm challenge, which chose projects based on a prompt that had already been set. The project that Moist Meter worked on won the State Farm Challenge and just plain won first place. The four people on the team went to the University of Texas at Dallas and had some experience with computer science and engineering.

Dan Nguyen, a member of the Moist Meter team and a computer engineering major at UTD, said that they wanted to use both hardware and software in their project. It was hard to connect the two, but it worked out in the end.

The second-place team was also from UTD. They made a program that would use AI to let a driver know when something is wrong with their car, like when the tire pressure is too low. The users could then call AI and have a full conversation with it to talk about the problem.

A lot of different kinds of software, like MATLAB and Google Cloud, were used in the best ways. A raffle for Instagram photos and a prize for the fastest murder mystery solver were some of the less “computery” awards.

Some people might think that the event was just a bunch of people hunched over their computers, but everyone was very friendly. A sophomore in computer science at UTA named Muhammad Khurram was on the third-place team Pear. He said that talking to other teams was his favorite part of the event. Khurram said, “It was fun to talk with the other teams and see what they were making.”

There was more to the Hackathon than just computers and code. There were a lot of workshops, meals, and small events at the event, such as reviewing resumes, playing Hungry Hungry Hippos, and midnight boba.

A point system was also used at the hackathon to get people to put down their screens and go to an event or workshop for a while. Saja Hussein, a junior in software engineering and co-executive director of HackUTA, said that this seemed to work pretty well because nearly 70 people showed up to one workshop.

Then, people could trade these points in for small prizes like energy drinks and plush toys. History junior Trevor Reigh is one of the co-executive directors of HackUTA. He said that Hackathons tend to be very dry and competitive, but HackUTA wants to be the opposite.

“Rather than just trying to make a project and win,” Reigh said, “we focus more on making it fun and open to everyone.” He said that it’s not really about the competition in these events. Most of the time, university programs don’t teach these useful skills that software engineers need every day on the job.

Many of the competitors and event organizers told people who were interested in going to these events to just do it and not worry about whether or not they had enough experience. “Don’t be afraid to try new things. “Erase the feeling that you are not good enough, and just do it,” Hussien replied.

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