With extra help, tech-savvy MTSU students sweep Hack-MT awards

With extra help, tech-savvy MTSU students sweep Hack-MT awards

It did not take Belmont University freshman computer science major Tito Ebiwonjumi to feel right at home at MTSU.

Ebiwonjumi, 17, who is from Lagos, Nigeria, participated in the computer science department’s second Hack-MT that ended Sunday (Feb. 5) in the Science Building. He pitched an idea on Day 1, but not enough people worked with him. Then he decided to “forget the idea and go work with other people and get the experience.”

The international student joined nine other MTSU student team members to create “VR-Maze.com,” a virtual reality maze game. The group captured first place in the event that brings software developers, visual designers, programmers, computer science and computer information systems students together with industry mentors to create programs and projects in 36 hours.

“It took us 26 hours to get it done,” Ebiwonjumi said after the excited team received the first-place award. “We actually created three maps for up to 100 players on one map, but my map did not function. The other two maps functioned well.”

Ebiwomjumi called his first hackathon “a huge learning experience. … I learned to work with people I had never met.” He also carried a MacBook laptop back to Belmont. He won it Sunday morning in a drawing.

MTSU received first-, second- and third-place honors, plus earned the Hackers Choice Award voted on by the competitors.

Runner-up “ParkMT” created a program to help solve the campus’s parking challenges. The team was composed of physics, mathematics (two) and computer science majors.

Yuxin Zhang, 22, a senior computer science major from Lanzhou, China, said she “learned new ways to interpret data and the exchange of ideas with each other.”

As sophomore computer science major Sam Remedios of Nolensville, Tennessee, told onlookers about their creation, upper classman physics and math student Ryan Florida of Nashville said their team benefited from being a mix of majors.

“We just had somebody (an industry mentor) come by and say our project could apply to first responders and to active shooter situations,” Florida said.

Three University of Alabama computer science juniors — Joey Murphy, Scott Carl and Chipper Atkins — collaborated for a Web-related project called “Intellichef” for preparing meals.

“This was our first experience with a back end Web server, so it was learn as we go,” Murphy said. “We all like to cook. Whether you use an app or look online, you can spend a lot of time scrolling back and forth. What we did is combine the two, where it’s all integrated.”

Yolanda Greene of Murfreesboro, Rutherford County marketing president for premier sponsor First Tennessee Bank, said her biggest takeaway was “how the kids connect to inspire them to create, identify and connect to a greater need in the community.”

“I don’t know the behind-the-scenes work, but I know it was a lot of work,” she said. “I’m hoping to meet some of these guys on the next level (when they seek employment after graduation).”

Greene’s children — Madison, 9, Dwayne Jr., 5, and Selene, 3 — joined their mom for Sunday’s finale, which included judging and awards.

More than 200 students completed 22 projects.

“Every cubby (hole) throughout the whole building was utilized,” said Chrisila Pettey, computer science chair and event director. “And they were all really excited.”

Third-place MTSU “Game of Code” featured 32 team members. “Furby MT,” a personal assistant that talked, earned the Hackers Choice Award. It was a spinoff of the electronic robotic toy released in 1998.

Hack-MT is a way to gather students from MTSU and other universities together with industry partners and alumni to gain experience that might lead to future employment.

Other sponsors include Bondware Inc., Cat Financial, Ingram Book Company, Decision Source Inc., LeanKit and SERVPRO.

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