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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 18, 2018   |   Ithaca, NY

News

Students develop apps for coding competition

The Ithaca College Computer Science Department, Women in Computing, IT@IC and Ed Tech Day at Ithaca College held the college’s first overnight code{a}thon from 4 p.m. Dec. 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 2 in Clark and Klingenstein Lounges.

The coding competition was organized by Jenna Linskens, associate director of learning technologies, and consisted of 10 students split into three teams. The teams were granted a total of 24 hours to develop an app. The two main goals of the code{a}thon were to develop apps that could have a positive impact on the world and to introduce coding to people with no previous computer science experience, Linskens said.

Linskens said the event was a learning opportunity for experienced and inexperienced coders. She said she hopes participants left with more knowledge about coding and the ability to spread that knowledge to new people outside of the coding community.

“It is an opportunity for people to get together, share ideas and develop apps,” Linskens said. “It is a great way to meet new people. It is a great way to learn coding if you have never learned.”

There was a wide variety of ideas for apps that were presented at the beginning of the event. Some were provided by college faculty, and others were brought to the event by the students.

After the apps were completed, the teams showcased what they had accomplished over the 24 hours to a judging panel comprised of six professors. The projects were judged on five different sets of criteria: difficulty, creativity, usefulness, global impact and polish.

The team working on the Reddit Natural Language Processor (NLP), which was awarded first place by the judges, consisted of juniors Colin Hay and Harry Margalotti and senior Tim Clerico. They aimed to find and organize hate speech on Reddit so that it would be easier to track down and regulate. Users of the app will type in a certain phrase and every related article will appear for the viewer.

Margalotti said his team picked this topic because they believe there is a lot of hidden hate speech on the website that is detrimental to users and that could be identified and flagged.

“There are plenty of political subreddits where a variety of political issues are discussed,” Margalotti said. “From there, we thought that political discussion online seems like it is usually very hateful and unproductive, so we chose those subreddits for our Natural Language Processing.”

The participants were expected to work on their apps for the entire 24 hours. The event started at 4 p.m., and at approximately 10 p.m., all of the teams had gone home because they had finished all of the strenuous, major work for their apps and only needed to put on some final touches.

Another competing team, which included John White, associate director of applications and infrastructure, graduate student Hannah Shade and junior Emily Pressman, worked on an app to improve accessibility on campus. Shade and Pressman were already working on an accessibility project related to the app prior to the event for which Deborah Merriman, assistant director of benefit programs, received funding from President Shirley M. Collado’s Seed Grant Initiative for Spring 2018.

The team’s main goal was to develop a campus map for students with disabilities who have trouble traveling around campus. The map would allow students to see the pitch and grade of walkways and plan the best route for them to take. The team’s design came in second.

Graduate student Mara Erb, who is also working on the map, said the team is trying to determine the best routes in terms of accessibility.

“We have been identifying slopes that are accessible, and we are looking to put that into app form,” Erb said. “So a user could hypothetically put in where they would like to go on campus and that would find the accessible route for them that works the best.”

Another team that was initially working on an app that aimed to organize and distribute papers to professors before academic conferences was unable to finish and ultimately split up and joined the other teams. Originally, this team consisted of senior Dylan Shane and sophomore Mark Volkov.

Linskens said the first-place winners were chosen because of the number of people their app could potentially affect.

“They put in a lot of effort and chose a very challenging application to create a prototype and eventually develop,” Linskens said. “The potential for scalability and global impact is extremely high. Overall, they gave a very clean and detailed presentation on the process of the development.”

The prizes for the event came from Rev Ithaca Startup Works, a local business incubator, and The State Diner. All participants received a $50 Visa gift card, and the firstplace winners will present their app and share their experience during the college’s Educational Technology Day conference in March 2019.

Cody Taylor can be reached at ctaylor6@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @cody_tea19