MechSE undergrad builds a 3D reality modifier at HackIllinois
HackIllinois marked his fifth function. More than 900 university students, including Vishwanathan, and 50 sponsors trekked out to Urbana for the 36-hour hackathon hosted by students at the University of Illinois on Feb. 27 to March 1.
Universities from across the nation were invited to come to Illinois to collaborate on projects and meet with mentors from top-notch companies, including Apple, Bloomberg and Interactive Intelligence.
Hackers and sponsors traveling from as far west as San Francisco, as north as Waterloo and as far south as Atlanta saw a snowy, but fitting opening to the hackathon this year and its theme: “Find Your Inner Explorer.”
Here, Vishwanathan reflected on his first hackathon at the University of Michigan, and why he decided to continue hacking.
“I was talking to a guy named Dave Fontenot,” he said. “He was the one who started the whole movement here.”
He is referring to the large-scale collegiate hackathon movement, including MHacks, which Fontenot helped organize. The only time Vishwanathan missed the opportunity to participate in one was when he was employed and in a binding arrangement with Apple Inc. that did not allow him to partake in hackathons where future company designs could be compromised.
“This (position at Apple) was a proper mechanical engineering, product design internship,” Vishwanathan said. “One of the reasons I got it was because of these hackathons. It was very different; not very many people did it in my field and major. I had products to show for it.”
His last project, developed at PennApps 2015, is called Now: a hockey puck-sized device that lets users know what the weather feels like with a color key. Green means it’s warm, yellow indicates it’s cool, and red shows that it is cold out. The project placed as one of the top 30 products at PenApps this year and received interest from Nest for incorporating some of the automation company’s API.
Today, the Now project is a contender in Illinois’ Cozad New Venture Competition.
At the second annual HackIllinois, Vishwanathan created a 3D reality modifier using Oculus Rift. To hack the technology, he was joined by a multidisciplinary team, including CE juniors Neel Mouleeswaran and Yuriy Tytla, and CS sophomore Evan Fabry.
HackIllinois launched its three-day event with an opening ceremony on Friday at the Illini Union, where more than 30 sponsors announced their prizes, providing hackers the opportunity to shape projects around the company’s API, existing technology, or a specific concept. Hackers spent the following two days at the Siebel Center for Computer Science and Illinois ECE Building creating 180 new and unconventional technologies.
HackIllinois concluded on Sunday, March 1, with an expo in the Illini Union, where students presented their final projects before a team of judges including professors, speakers, and staff. Sponsors awarded more than 70 prizes amounting to almost $10,000 in value, ranging from Myo armbands to Dell Venue Tablets.
Additionally, VIP Judges Greg Baugues, developer evangelist at Twilio, and Jay Freeman, developer of the Cydia application for jailbroken devices, presented “Find Your Inner Explorer” snow globe trophies to the top three hardware and software hacks.