MTSU's Weekend Hackathon Huge Success



(MURFREESBORO) On Sunday the fifth annual HackMT at MTSU concluded its 36-hour hackathon for college students from across the region.

One of the winning MTSU HackMT teams created an online app that can provide free food for the needy and help feed the homeless. Another would work in tandem with Toys for Tots and The Salvation Army's Angel Tree program at Christmastime.

The hackathon gathers software developers, visual designers, programmers and computer science/computer information systems students from universities to form teams to invent new web platforms, games, mobile apps and electronic gadgets.

MTSU alumnus Kenny Pyatt (Class of 2001) with Technology Advice in Nashville, Tennessee, mentored an 18-member (mostly MTSU freshmen and sophomores) team named Charity Toy Tracker to help make children happier at Christmas.

"I love the event (HackMT). It's fun to mentor," said Pyatt, who added they worked on the project until 4 a.m. Sunday before returning later. "Selfishly, I recruit people from the event to be hired at our company." He said about 12 have landed jobs.

Murfreesboro Discovery School third-grader Alex Otter, 9, son of MTSU biology professor and Data Science Institute co-director Ryan Otter, enjoyed the "Crazy Connect" team's augmented reality mini games . He and Maxwell Wovchko, 12, a Brentwood, Tennessee, Middle School sixth-grader, also had a blast playing the popular Infinity team's five games.

Infinity team member Daniel Cox, 31, an MTSU junior computer science major from Memphis, Tennessee, called it a "very positive and supportive experience. We pushed ourselves. I was motivated by (HackMT veteran) Steven Sheffey (MTSU graduate student). ... It was a nice, diverse level of academia around the team."

MTSU graduate student Kevin Barrett, 23, became involved with the data science project led by professor Charlie Apigian because "they had what I was looking for. ... I felt like I learned a lot more in this 36-hour event than you can in an entire class. It's much more focused." Apigian is co-director of the MTSU Data Science Institute.

Nom/Nom and L3Harris Technologies tied for first place in a judges' vote. Charity Toy Tracker finished second. Car-Hackers, with four Belmont University students and one from Motlow State who is planning to transfer to MTSU in the fall, placed third.

Nom/Nom also earned the Hacker's Choice Award.

"All of the teams and students worked really hard," said MTSU computer science assistant professor Josh Phillips.

Asurion, a title sponsor along with L3Harris, presented a Raspberry Pi to Rafal Sobachi, 23, an MTSU senior information systems major from Jaddah, Saudia Arabia, in a door prize drawing.

To learn more about HackMT and the 2021 hackathon, which will be held Jan. 29-31, call 615-898-2397. To learn about sponsorship opportunities, call development officer Paul Wydra at 615-898-5329.