HackPSU top prize goes to interdisciplinary team for collaboration software

Sarah Rothfleisch
December 09, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students from across the state traveled to University Park on Nov. 2 for HackPSU, a 24-hour hackathon in which students compete for prizes by developing ideas that use software to solve real-life problems.

This year’s overall winners were Joel Seidel (junior, information sciences and technology and economics), Jack Quinn (junior, computer science and economics), and Casey Waverka (junior, information sciences and technology). Their winning software program was designed to help strengthen communication between employees or members of an organization.

“The project is called Vibe, and it’s a project management specifically designed to allow developers to track their progress on tasks and collaborate with others,” Seidel said.

The program was designed to address the problems where other collaboration tools fall short, according to Seidel.

“[Other programs] have a lot of features that you don’t end up using, and lacks in features that you do,” he explained. “Vibe is a tool that addresses those problems, and allows for real-time collaboration and updates for everyone working on a project.”

Teamwork was an integral part of the project, according to Quinn, who noted that his teammates were invaluable to the progress of the coding.

“The projects that we went against used a lot of software already built and available to the public, but ours was built from scratch and required a lot of effort and knowledge in coding,” said Quinn, who estimated their lines of code to extend into the tens of thousands.

Although this was Quinn’s first time competing in HackPSU, Seidel had his own experience from last year to draw on.

“I was doing a project alone last time I did the hackathon. I fell asleep and when I woke up, I was sick and I couldn’t present my project,” Seidel recalled. “Having those team members was helpful.”

In addition to winning first place in the overall competition, Seidel, Quinn and Waverka also won first place in the corporate challenge from Loop Software for the Best Data-Driven SaaS Application. They credited some success to the exposure that Penn State gives students to side projects and examples outside of the classroom.

“One of my classes, IST networking, was really helpful,” said Seidel. “It’s good to have professors there to point you in the right direction while you’re working, and so projects in class and outside of class are really beneficial.”

In addition to teamwork and soft skills they’ve learned at Penn State, the group agreed that competitions like HackPSU provide an invaluable experience to students outside of the classroom.

“Hackathons are very valuable to people who want to learn how to be a practical programmer, how to deliver in a timely fashion, and how to think critically on a problem,” said Quinn.

With HackPSU now over, the team plans to continue working on Vibe and are looking forward to next semester’s hackathon.

“We’re already thinking about what we’ll do for the next round of HackPSU,” said Seidel. “And we’re already excited for it.”

Last Updated January 22, 2020