By Rosemary Cook | Staff Writer
On Sept. 9, 2016, four Saint Mary’s-affiliated students participated in the First Revel Hackathon organized by BeMyApp. Sanjay Shrestha ’17, Rahul Murthy ‘16, Jung Kim ’17, and teammate Rui Li were tasked with creating a functional app in under 21 hours for event sponsor Shell Oil Company.
Team SMC had never been to a hackathon before and “were fairly inexperienced” Kim described. “We all decided to enter to see what it’s like…We went in without strategies, plans or ideas, but Shrestha decided to pitch an idea he came up with while we were getting the presentation from the organizers and we decided to develop it into something more concrete.”
According to Revel Systems, a hackathon is “an event with timed parameters during which teams collaborate and compete to problem solve opportunities around computer programming functions.” It was a unique opportunity for the Saint Mary’s engineering and computer science students to practice what they had learned in their classes and its real-world applications. Kim especially enjoyed the experience working with the Revel Systems’ Application Programming Interface (API): “For [Computer Science 190: Mobile Software Development] I developed my own fake server for an app, but it was really cool to use a real server for the first time.”
The hackathon started at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9 and lasted until 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10. Team SMC pitched their idea and began coding at 9:00 p.m. After approximately 15 straight hours of designing and debugging, they had built an app that increases customer convenience with in-app purchases for fuel and retail, allows customers to keep track of their loyalty points with real-time updates, and provides each user with sales and promotions tailored to their unique product preferences based on shopping patterns. The app also features the ability to compare prices of the gas stations closest to the user, including the cost of gas to reach the location of the pump and track which pumps are available or in use at a given station.
At 3:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon, the team was given the opportunity to demonstrate their app in an IOS simulator and participate in a Q&A session for judging. Admittedly, they were nervous: “Our pitch and demo was messy and rushed, mostly due to our lack of experience demonstrating in a professional setting,” Kim explained. “I didn’t think we were going to win.” However, despite their reservations, the judges awarded Team SMC first place, an honor that was accompanied with a grand prize of $6,000 for the four teammates.
What’s next for these award winning programmers? Saint Mary’s students should watch out for the Book-Rack App, developed by Shrestha and Murthy just for SMC students to help save money by buying and selling used textbooks.
Book-Rack became available to download for free in the Apple app store on Aug. 9, and in the first month was downloaded 400 times. It also helped facilitate the sale of over 50 textbooks to SMC students. Kim joined his teammates as a developer, working to make the app available on Android smartphones in the near future.