Penn student hackers finish apps


The computer science club hosted the Finishathon this weekend




The madness of the PennApps Hackathon weekend might have ended weeks ago, but for those who still wanted to work on their projects, the programming zeal is far from over.

On Saturday, the Dining Philosophers, Penn’s student computer science club, hosted a Finishathon for programmers, hackers, entrepreneurs and mentors to finish the projects that they started two weeks ago at Hackathon.

After working for a whole day, four teams finished their modifications and presented their work. As one of the presenters that night, Engineering junior Daniel Ge introduced his project Doortag — an Android app designed to connect door bells with people’s phones. A user can save his or her contact information as data into a small rectangular tag that Daniel developed, then put that tag on his or her door. When there are visitors but the room is empty, they can use the same app to read the tag on the door and send a text to the person.

In this way, visitors can get in touch with the person without revealing any of their contact information — an effective way to protect privacy.

“I thought of the idea because I found that most dorm rooms in college houses do not have door bells,” Ge explained, “and a door tag will do even a better job because it helps you to find the person more efficiently.”

Ge built up his project team with some friends interested in computer science, and they specialized on different tasks. “Two of us specialized on Ruby on Rails,” Ge said, referring to a web application framework for the Ruby programming language, “while I work more on Android since I have a server.”

Another presentation was made by two freshmen, Ian Sibner in the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology and Doron Shapiro in Engineering. Their website, Pennprojects.com, is designed for students to show their engineering projects online.

“It’s also a stage developed for the Dining Philosophers itself,” Sibner said, “because to facilitate innovation, we also need a stage for people to show their work.”

When asked what they managed to finish this time, both teams said their main goal was to polish their programs.

Ge did a demo two weeks ago, but he said “it was not polished very well and the user interface was not very friendly.”

For Sibner’s team, “the website was working, but we made it look more professional today,” he said.

“One thing about computer projects is that there’s always more to add to a project, so there’s no absolute concept of ‘finish’,” said Sahil Shah, a freshman in the Management and Technology Program and a member on Dining Philosophers’ hacking committee.

“People always come up with new ideas to implement,” he added.

One of the mentors for this event was Cliff Stevens, founder and president of the start-up Lokadot, LLC. He said that he was impressed and invigorated to see the initiatives by Penn students to deploy their ideas in the real world, and wished to see more people in the Philadelphia computer industry participating in such an event.

As the largest college hackathon in the world, PennApps will hold its fall Hackathon over a weekend this September.

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