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SOU team wins hackathon

SOU team wins statewide hackathon

A team of four SOU computer science students won first place out of 62 teams in a statewide “hackathon” last weekend after developing and coding a game they called “Laughing Stock” over two days. The HackOR event, held on a combination of online platforms, drew a total of 600 contestants with teams from institutions including the University of Oregon and Oregon State University.

The game created by a team of SOU juniors – Liam Erickson, Sam Platt, Peter Jacobson and Ronin Ganoot – challenges players to try getting through a TSA terminal at a virtual airport. Once aboard their airplane, they must make various decisions, such as whether to put their bare feet on the seat (bad idea). The team described it as a “nightmare realm” of adventure games of the players’ choosing.

“Events such as this prepare our students for the workplace, where they will need to analyze the requirements for a project and develop software solutions in a fast-paced environment,” said Priscilla Oppenheimer, an assistant professor in SOU’s Computer Science Program.  “SOU prepares students for environments like this by teaching them not just to be great programmers, but also to think about what problems need to be solved.”

She said at least two other SOU students – Joshua Yoon and Jacob Golden – also participated in the HackOR event, which was held on social platforms including Zoom, YouTube, Discord, Devpost, GitHub and gather.town. Oppenheimer served as one of the hackathon’s mentors, helping students with outreach and providing support during the event.

The HackOR event was founded by Joy Liu, a student who is on a gap year before starting college. Judges included both industry leaders and professors from around the state and included at least one from Ashland – Bill Saltzstein, an engineer and innovator in the medical device field. Judges said that they especially liked that the winning SOU entry was hand-crafted, with good code and excellent graphics.

Last weekend’s competition was the first statewide hackathon for SOU computer science students. The university put on its own internal event last year.

Hackathon participants coded games in eight hours

SOU coders create Mt. Shasta-themed games in Hackathon event

Shasta Networks, an Ashland-based leader in healthcare technology, teamed up this month with the SOU Computer Science Club and the Alan and Priscilla Oppenheimer Foundation to host SOU’s 2nd annual Hackathon.

Students came together via Zoom for the April 4 event in which they created small coding projects in only eight hours using either Java or Python.

The Hackathon was judged by Shasta Networks software engineers on originality and creativity, technical difficulty, completeness and clean structure of the code, elegance of the code, and functionality of the developed software.

“We used GitHub, which allows people to publish their code in a shared repository,” said Priscilla Oppenheimer, an assistant professor in SOU’s Computer Science Program. “That way, the judges could see the contestants’ code, once they pushed the final version to GitHub.”

After a difficult deliberation, the judges announced this year’s winners.

In first place, and the recipient of $300, was Richard Coleman and his game, “Shasta Battle.” Players of the game must throw snowballs at the top of Mt. Shasta to keep it snowy and intact, and prevent the volcanic mountain from erupting.

“Complex game that used PyGame library. Good graphics,” said judges, “Professionally done, especially considering the eight-hour time limit for working on it.”

Denis Roman finished in second place for his interactive skiing game. Going above and beyond in a short time, the game includes sprites, collisions, a collision sound, and increasing difficulty as time passes.

“Nice graphics and good sound effects,” judges wrote. “(We) were especially impressed by the well-structured and clean code.”

Taking third place was Samuel James, for his text-based adventure game with great ASCII art. The game – which dives into Mt. Shasta and myths about creatures said to live in the mountain – left the judges impressed.

“Good story, good coding, good art,” they said.

Hackathon participants were able to overcome the obstacle of social distancing and form a collaborative environment during a time when community is difficult to achieve.

“I think we were able to emulate a ‘real’ hackathon,” Priscilla Oppenheimer said. “We weren’t really hampered by the need for physical distancing.

“Technology is really saving the day with the coronavirus,” she said. “Meetings, exercise classes, hackathons, book clubs and even scientific collaboration can all be done with Internet-based tools. Whether it’s Zoom, Google docs, GitHub or other tools that allow for collaboration, technology is helping us maintain our ties with colleagues, friends and family.”

Story by Kennedy Cartwright, SOU Marketing and Communications assistant and student writer