Penn State Harrisburg students take top honor at HackPSU competition

A team of five students won the ‘hack challenge’ during Penn State’s 24-hour HackPSU competition. Three of the students are from Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Science, Engineering, and Technology, one is from Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Business Administration, and one is from the School of Engineering at University Park. 

The team was tasked with completing a challenge, posed by event sponsor Invent Penn State, to solve a problem or build a resource for incubator and co-working spaces. This challenge was presented in direct relation to their LaunchBox business accelerator program.

Members of the team included:

  • Shane Hall, computer science
  • Pranav Jain, computer science
  • Howie Anderson, computer science
  • Michael Li, information sciences and technology
  • Emily Burke, electrical engineering

The students wanted to provide a platform for individuals to be able to quickly connect with interesting projects and collaborators in their area. Their winning project, People2Projects, is a multi-platform mobile application developed for iOS and Android which expedites the initial interaction between these parties. A person that's either looking for collaborators to their own project or to join another person's project may use People2Projects to instantly start the search for existing endeavors or available expertise in their surrounding area, and commit to their motivation essentially on command.

It will allow individuals to search up local projects at any time, which makes it a potential utility to many groups of people including college campuses, larger companies, and one's surrounding community in general.

The app also serves as a tool for the "project creator" users to quickly discover interest and enthusiasm for their ideas, should it exist. 

The students began developing their idea while attending the mobile app development workshops offered at the hackathon, where they were instructed on the basics of developing software in Android Studio. At the end of the workshops they had agreed on a challenge, and started developing something originally envisioned as a "Tinder-style matching application" between people and projects, where users feeling motivated to find new productive uses of time could start a search, and be presented with a list of general project layouts, one at a time. They would then swipe left to pass on the opportunity and go to the next option, or swipe right to indicate interest and have the app communicate contact information between the user and the project's creator for immediate correspondence.

The team said that the next big step in the development of People2Projects will be to integrate the iOS and Android parts of the application through a common database.

This was the first HackPSU to ever take place in fall, and also the first hackathon to only be open to Penn State students, the event held in the spring is national. More than 140 students participated and 16 teams submitted and expo-ed their final projects.

HackPSU was established in 2012 as a small start-up consisting of only 20 students, but has since grown into a much larger event, drawing students from University Park as well as Commonwealth campuses. The HackPSU team hopes that the event will foster an environment centered on self-expression, education, and creativity through technology. In addition to hands-on workshops and one-on-one time with mentors from the software industry, HackPSU offers a fun way for students to code, create mobile apps, and have fun while solving everyday tech problems.