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Ready, set, code: CrimsonCode Hackathon fosters innovation, collaboration

SEL Fellow Engineer Greg Zweigle gives his keynote address.

Over 300 young programmers from local high schools and universities were invited to try something new in developing applications from scratch during this year’s CrimsonCode Hackathon. 

The annual event invites teams of coding enthusiasts to WSU’s Pullman campus for a 24-hour test of programming ingenuity. This year’s hackathon was hosted by WSU’s Association for Computing Machinery executive board with event sponsors Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Major League Hacking and GESA Credit Union.

“The most valuable part of the hackathon is bringing together participants from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to collaborate on an innovative and creative project,” said Shira Feinberg, a senior computer science student and director of the event. “It’s truly a one-of-a-kind opportunity outside of school to showcase one’s skills.”

SEL Fellow Engineer Greg Zweigle welcomed participants with a keynote address about his work as a software development engineer. A debrief on event rules and unveiling of the event’s open-ended theme followed with fifty-one teams delegated to two tiers based on their experience. 

Team 4 People won the competition’s advanced tier with the development of a new programming language that allows developers to code in the style of poets. WSU computer science student Anna Ueti and her team set out to challenge norms in computer programming with strategies that they had learned in upper-division computer science courses. The result of their collaboration, entitled Pyoem, is both a language and an interpreter that runs the code.

“We really enjoyed creating such a ridiculous new language,” Ueti said. “This is most of our group’s last semester, so this was a great last project to work on together.”

Byte Knights, the winning team in the novice tier and award for best accessible hack, created an artificial intelligence assistant, with inspiration drawn from Siri and Iron Man’s J.A.R.V.I.S. The team included three Gonzaga University students and WSU student Jonathan Simmons.

SEL Fellow Engineer Greg Zweigle gives his keynote address

The team used AI models to build a system to record speech, translate it to text, and run commands. Simmons enjoyed learning new skills and collaborating with team members at the hackathon.

“My favorite part was having the opportunity to work as part of a group,” he said. “In my computer science classes, work is individual, so collaboration was a new experience.”

A programming tutor, learning management system and crowd-sourced storytelling software were among the other innovative submissions judged by industry professionals. Winning participants received over $2,000 in prizes furnished by event sponsors and donations. 

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