Student-run hackathon builds interdisciplinary solutions to challenges facing San Luis Obispo community

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Camp PolyHacks, an interdisciplinary hackathon based on social entrepreneurship, was held on Jan. 20 and 21 at the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) HotHouse in downtown San Luis Obispo.

During the two-day hackathon, 57 California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (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 issue categories, including civic engagement, artificial intelligence (AI), classroom project continuation and the Cal Poly Digital Transformation Hub (DxHub) powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) projects

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.

Camp PolyHacks was sponsored by the CIE, as well as the City of San Luis Obispo, Amazon Web Services, DxHub, Dignity Health, Cal Poly College of Engineering and Cal Poly College of Liberal Arts.

The event was organized by student volunteers and David Askay, a Cal Poly communications adjunct professor and CIE faculty innovation lead.

“I am so impressed with seeing the commitment and drive of so many talented students,” Askay said. “While we fueled participants with food and community coaches, it was their own passion and creativity that moved them forward.” 

Day one 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 day two, teams were given just over two hours to fine-tune their projects before presenting their innovations to a panel of judges.

Team Hopper won $500 for Top Project in Continuing a Class Project. They developed a personalized app and optimized dynamic bus routes to improve student transportation. The group consisted of business major Kennedy Urcelay; recreation parks and tourism administration major Kennedy Barlow; communication studies major Quoya Mann and international exchange student in computer science Othilia Norell.

Team TherapEase won $500 for Top Project in Artificial Intelligence. They developed a physical therapy app that tracks improvements in mobility and movement over time and encourages compliance with home exercises. The group consisted of computer science majors Isha Varrier, Pihu Jha, Dhanvi Ganti, Sunishka Sharma and Sammer Maheshwari; and graphic communication major Bella Santos. 

Team Kudos won $500 for Top Project in Civic Engagement. They developed an app to help empower rental tenants by finding rentals, reviewing landlords, tracking code violations and providing an AI chatbot to answer questions about renters’ rights. The group consisted of communication studies major Brenden Jacoby; computer science major Soren Fliegel; and city and regional planning majors Margo Ezcurra and Jodie Huang. 

Special awards for $200 were also given for achievements such as “Best Demo,” “Best Pitch” and “Best Design.” 

These award winners included:

— Best Demo: Team LocalLens, who created an AI chatbot trained on the City of San Luis Obispo council records to increase and facilitate access to the public. This team included computer science majors Jason Jelincic, Pallavi Das, Miguel Villa Floran, Nick Riley and Taran Singh; and electrical engineering major Roy Vicerra. 

— Best Pitch: Team Credito, who provided undocumented U.S. immigrants a way to access credit. The team included interdisciplinary studies major Jorge Sanches; liberal arts and engineering studies major Casey Hartley, electrical engineering major Soumil Joshi; economics major Sevasian Juarez; and business major Zitao Guan.

— Best Design: Team Moment, who created an app to predict and prevent burnout in healthcare workers. The team included computer science majors Sofija Dimitrijevic, Jonathan Hagendoorn, James Irwin and Ellie Pearson; and computer engineering major Nick Weiss.

Other teams included: 

— Team GeoGraph who used geographic information system (GIS) and lidar data to provide the City of San Luis Obispo Sustainability Manager Chris Read with the estimated square footage of non-residential buildings in San Luis Obispo to track carbon emissions and inform policy decisions. 

— Team Rewired who developed an app for pre-screening and tracking gambling addiction. 

— Team Humorfy who developed a health and fitness app to encourage meeting goals with humor and fun. 

— Team WellNex.AI who used AI to create a digital patient intake form to create pre-diagnoses and optimization of visits for free healthcare at the Noor Clinic. 

— Team Bike CV who created an app to track bike accidents.  


About the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship:

The CIE opens a world of entrepreneurial opportunities to Cal Poly students, faculty and community members and promotes entrepreneurial activity and dialogue across the university and throughout San Luis Obispo County. For more information, visit