Hacking Team Wins Award and Connections
Junior Huong Nguyen and fellow computer science major Cullin Lam carpooled all summer to their internship and co-op at Profitect Inc., a company that produces data analytics tools for retailers.
On the drive to and from Waltham, Lam liked to listen to rap music in the car — but Nguyen, a native of Vietnam, found it frustrating.
“I said, ‘Don’t play rap. I don’t understand anything, like all the slang words.’ And he said, ‘You can go online and look up the lyrics.’ The conversation ended there,” Nguyen says.
But the idea didn’t. It popped up again when she, Lam, sophomore Kody Thach and recent graduate Son Nguyen (no relation) teamed up to enter the Shark Hack at Simmons College, a hackathon aimed at getting more women into high tech.
“We were looking for ideas and Cullin said, ‘OK, let’s make a music player that can look up the lyrics for you,’” Nguyen says.
So during the 24-hour Shark Hack, their team assembled a desktop app that links the music-streaming service Spotify to Genius, which displays lyrics, and Urban Dictionary, so people listening to songs can look up the slang in real time. Their app, Hadu, won the hackathon prize for best user interface and user experience: a six-month subscription to their choice of development software.
Hackathons are an increasingly popular way for students to try out different computer programming tools and apply classroom learning to real-life challenges. They also sometimes generate start-ups. Students can enter in teams or as individuals, who then get assigned to teams.
UMass Lowell hosted its first one last spring, the Hawkathon. Son Nguyen and Lam, a senior, both participated. This fall’s Shark Hack was the first such experience for Huong Nguyen and Thach.
“Hackathons are almost masochistic. There’s a lot of suffering that goes into them,” Lam says cheerfully.