November 17, 2017

HackSI winners display ingenuity at SIU

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Imagine being able to access an online power grid where you could purchase or sell solar energy.

That’s the premise of Solardawn, a winning project in the 2017 HackSI competition held recently at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Solardawn is the brainchild of three SIU students and won the VC Award, given to a business start-up “waiting to happen,” according to event co-organizer Lynn Andersen Lindberg. The winning “Spazzing Squirrels” team, includes:

  • Kole Cralley, a senior computer science and math double major from Mt. Vernon
  • Vincent Davis, a senior computer science major from Rosenberg, Texas
  • Megan Schwartz, a senior microbiology major from New Palestine, Ind.

They created software that would allow homeowners to buy and sell energy from one another or other producers, securing the best prices in a secure manner without the need for a third-party go-between or central server and database. It would also allow people to monitor their energy usage and storage.

Fierce competition

The Spazzing Squirrels were among the nearly 150 competitors of all ages participating in the event at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center.

The challenge was to work with computers to code and program original projects and/or solve problems via innovative use of software and programming. Contestants had just 24 hours to conceive of a plan, build a working prototype and present it for judging. This is the fifth year for the competition, founded by Dav Glass of Marion, a distinguished architect at Yahoo and sponsor of the Marion High School robotics team. Sponsored by the SIU Research Park and the non-profit organization HackSI, the hackathon was “absolutely awesome and the biggest and best event to date,” Lindberg said.

The complete results are in

Two additional prizes were awarded at the competition.

Gabrielle Baratta, 13, an eighth-grader at Carbondale New School, claimed the “Rookie Hacker Award.” Her entry, dubbed “Octavius is Flying,” was an automated drone program.

Brenton Morgan, a Carterville High School junior, won the “Best Hack Award.” His team “Zinc” created a portable PlayStation 2.

Tough decision

Judges for this year’s hackathon said it was difficult to pick the winners due to the ingenuity, creativity and talent of the participants. Judges included principals from some of the sponsoring companies as well as successful entrepreneurs and SIU innovation and research experts.

Event sponsors also included Liaison Technologies, Potentia Analytics, Black Diamond Harley-Davidson, Carbondale Tourism, Krispy Kreme, the Ultimate Gaming Championships, Rend Lake College, Saluki Screen Repair, OpenSpace and Lost Decade Games.

Mark your calendars

Plans are already in the works for the 2018 HackSI competition. It will take place Nov. 3-4, 2018 at SIU’s Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center.