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UHS students compete in TeenHacks competition

Daniel Cortez (Sr.), Alex Chang (Sr.) and Snaheth Thumathy (Sr.) won third place at the TeenHacks competition. (Nancy Wu)

By BILL ZAN
Staff Writer

Hackathons are competitions in which students display their skills by developing software or hardware associated with mobile phones and computers during the hackathon. TeenHacks was Southern California’s first major high school hackathon. It took place at Sunny Hills High School from October 25-26 and brought over 200 students from Southern California together. There were $2,500 in prizes for winning products. First place won $2000 and an invitation to the Thiel Foundation’s Under 20 Summit in Las Vegas. Second place won $400 and a Pebble smart watch. Third place won $100 in $25 gift cards. TeenHacks sponsors include Visage, Thiel Fellowship, Teespring, Oculus VR, Pebble, MakeGamesWithUs, Microsoft, NameCheap, Wolfram, DuckDuckGo, One Month, GitHub, Twilio, Lob, and ReadyForce.  The teams were judged for creativity, technicality, user friendliness, and problem solving.

A team of University High School (UHS) students won third place at TeenHacks. The team included UHS students Daniel Cortez (Sr.), Snaheth Thumathy (Sr.) and Alex Chang (Sr.). For the hackathon, they created a website and smartphone application “Prixies,” a service used to crowdsource the idea of finding prices of groceries. The app takes user uploaded receipts and returns the best place to shop. “Prixies” was coded with programming tools like Objective-C, HTML, CSS, Java, and Ruby on Rails.

However, the competition was no easy task for the team. Chang said, “I had to stay awake for the full 24-something hours to make the thing. That was pretty challenging.” The team won the official third place reward of one $25 gift card per team member and rewards from sponsors including free domains from NamesCheap and a sponsorship package from Wolfram Alpha. Other UHS students also participated in TeenHacks, including Albert Tung (Sr.), who placed fifth. Tung’s project, “Piclicity,” was a website that hosted social media based contests for businesses. “Pilicity” was coded in Ruby on Rails.

UHS teacher Tinh Tran (Science Dept.) encouraged many students to attend the hackathon. Other students discovered it from their friends or through individual research. Students formed teams at the event, though some planned their teams in advance.

Those who competed enjoyed the experience. Thumathy said, “The experience was great as I got to not only work with a great team on my great idea, but I was also able to deliver an awesome pitch of our app to a panel of notable judges at the end of the event.” Cortez agreed, saying, “It was an absolutely amazing experience. I learned about designing iOS and Android apps and had a great time learning to program.”

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