Cal Poly’s Student-Run Hackathon Builds Interdisciplinary Solutions to Local Challenges

A group of students brainstorm in the CIE HotHouse. One is standing and talking to three other students, seated at a rectangular table with laptops in front of them.
Camp PolyHacks was hosted at the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship HotHouse in downtown San Luis Obispo.

SAN LUIS OBISPO –A team of Cal Poly interdisciplinary students recently won the top prize at Camp PolyHacks for their anonymous blog space, dubbed Lumi, designed to help marginalized groups build community.

During the two-day hackathon Jan. 22-23, 70 Cal Poly students worked in groups to develop a solution to an issue impacting San Luis Obispo. Each of the 13 teams was assigned one of four categories, including inclusive digital spaces, transportation innovation, small business success and groundwater sustainability. Teams could develop solutions in the form of a product, service, information or marketing campaign, policy proposal or a demonstration or prototype of a mobile application.

The Stardust Team won $1,000 for Best Overall Solution. The team also won in the Most Impactful Solution for Inclusive Digital Spaces and Best Logo categories.

They developed and coded Lumi for Cal Poly students who belong to marginalized communities to post, seek advice and find companionship. Team members included computer science majors Sage Meadows, Hahns Pena and Bora Joo; liberal arts and engineering major Leticia Mezzetti; and computer engineering major Arjun Chopra.

The event was organized by student volunteers and Cal Poly communications professor and Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) Faculty Fellow David Askay.

“I feel lucky to be at Cal Poly alongside such wonderful students from across campus — from liberal arts to engineering — who join together their skills and creativity at this event,” Askay said.

The first day of Camp PolyHacks included a 90-minute team brainstorming session followed by opportunities for students to attend workshops and receive coaching and mentorship from industry professionals and Cal Poly faculty members. On the second day, teams were given just over two hours to fine-tune their projects before presenting their innovations to a panel of judges.

Awards were given to the teams who developed the most impactful solutions for each issue category. Special awards were also given for achievements such as Best Pitch or Most Sustainable.

Other awards included:

— Most Impactful Solution for Small Business Success: Team Shop SLOcal, which created an app that helps small businesses in downtown San Luis Obispo increase sales by implementing a customer-rewards system. The team included journalism major Madison Vernon, software engineering major Aaron Bettencourt, computer science major Kannan Jain and communication studies major Kat MacPherson.

— Most Impactful Solution for Transportation Innovations: Team cYc presented its idea for a bike rental service that allows students to rent out their personal bikes to other students, as well as a “smart lock” that tracks the bike. The team included computer science majors Krishnanshu Gupta, Ishaan Sathaye and Nakul Nayak, and computer engineering major Ashwin Rajesh.

— Most Impactful Solution for Groundwater Sustainability: Team Permeable SLO, which proposed that San Luis Obispo use new building materials, such as permeable pavement, to assist with replenishing groundwater. The team included landscape architecture major Hannah Huntley, computer science major Grant Holland, history major Katarina Di Paola and computer engineering major Rockwood Frank.

— Best Demonstration of Teamwork: Team Shop SLOcal.

— Most Sustainable: Team Permeable SLO.

— Best Pitch: Team Fair Start developed an AI (artificial intelligence) algorithm that screens applications for employers in order to reduce biases associated with resumes and decrease the time it takes employers to read through job applications. The team included computer science majors Shehbaj Singh Dhillon and Anisha Raju, and industrial engineering major Michael Cassetti.

— Best User Experience: Team Fair Start.

— Best Prototype: Team WORK created a website for small businesses that finds job candidates that fit the qualifications that a business is seeking. The team included computer science majors Nathan Kang and Matthew Chak, business administration majors Wesley Lin and Zitao Guan, and graphic communications major Aidan Nesbitt.

The Cal Poly CIE HotHouse in downtown San Luis Obispo hosted Camp PolyHacks, which was cosponsored by Cal Poly’s colleges of Liberal Arts and Engineering, the city of San Luis Obispo, the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, DRC Design and Red Bull.