Hack@CEWIT 2023, the seventh annual student hackathon run by the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology (CEWIT), returned live to Stony Brook University March 3-5, after being held virtually the previous two years.
Hack@CEWIT challenges students to further what they know by creating projects that follow their passions, giving them 48 hours or less to collaborate, innovate and show judges their skills and vision. This year’s theme was “Hacking a Sustainable Future,” and featured projects that focused on the Internet of Things (IoT), healthcare, energy and sustainability, defense technology and cybersecurity.
The 43-hour event — where hackers ate, slept and worked straight through the two nights — was open to all students currently registered in a college or university at the undergraduate, graduate or PhD level. More than 300 students from across the U.S. registered to take part in this year’s 43-hour hackathon.
“As we returned in person, there was an unprecedented amount of enthusiasm from student organizations across Stony Brook and Long Island,” said Christopher Lange, lead software engineer for CEWIT and team leader for the Hack@CEWIT event. “We’ve never had so many multidisciplinary student groups, faculty members, and industry leaders come forward to participate.”
The event was co-hosted by longtime CEWIT partner Major League Hacking (MLH), a company co-founded by Stony Brook graduate Jonathan Gottfried ’11. Each year, MLH partners on more than 300 invention competitions to help inspire innovation, cultivate communities and teach computer science skills to more than 500,000 developers around the world. CEWIT offered more than $4,500 in prizes this year.
Competitors worked in teams of no more than four. Throughout the weekend, they also attended tech talks and deep-dive workshops, and participated in several games and challenges. There was a Hardware Lab on site with industry mentors available for assistance and hands-on instruction.
“This was a transformative experience,” said Annisha Wazed, a senior electrical engineering major and president of the campus chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. “This year’s theme challenged me to think critically about the future of our world. With the resources that were available, I was able to expand my skill set and gain hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology. The in-person format allowed me to form connections with fellow students and industry professionals, and I came away from the event feeling inspired and empowered.”
Workshops were led by students, faculty, and members of industry, and a diversity panel was featured for the first time. University Police participated by hosting a drone workshop, and offered a use-of-force simulator demo and CPR training.
“We are thrilled to have seen record numbers this year in first-time hackers, workshops, tech talks, and partner organizations involved in Hack@CEWIT,” said Rong Zhao, center director at CEWIT. “We are extremely proud of the diverse groups of students from both Stony Brook and other colleges volunteering in the hackathon, including first-time organizations such as Farmingdale’s Coding Society, as well as our first roundtable discussion with speakers from ColorStack, SBU Women in Computer Science, SBU Cybersecurity Club, and industry members.”
Community members and STEM students from local school districts were encouraged to attend the culminating event, the Hack Project Showcase, on Sunday morning. Zhao said the event received overwhelming support both on- and off-campus.
“More than 120 community members, including many K-12 students, visited CEWIT to interact with the hackers, tour our research facilities, and participate in a variety of educational programs,” he said.
Sofia Primak, a high school student from Long Island’s Middle Country school district, attended the showcase and said the hackathon was a fun way to engage with college students. She was impressed with one project, a website called TreeTap, which allows businesses to sponsor tree planting in exchange for ad space. “It’s a great initiative for us to support reforestation with just one click,” Primak said. “Another amazing project called PetCare AI helps pet owners monitor the wellbeing of their pets. I really enjoyed the experience and hearing these students discuss how their creativity has led them to developing these unique projects.”
The event culminated in a virtual science fair and ceremony Sunday morning. Prizes were awarded, including Best in Show for both graduate and undergraduate students. A panel of industry judges representing companies including Amazon, Google, NYPA, Henry Schein, Zebra Technologies, Mobileware and Softheon judged the 23 projects submitted.
Best in Show for graduate student honors went to Stony Brook students Raisa Mallik and Abishek Vanam, who came up with Real Time Smart Traffic Management, an app designed to streamline daily commutes. Undergraduate Best in Show winners were Stony Brook’s Sije Park ‘23, Seungjun Chae ’23, Abhishek Gaire ’23 and Labesh Baral ‘26, computer science majors who coded Smart Fridge, a web app built to track food and ingredient expiration dates.
“It was a pleasure to participate in the Hack@CEWIT competition,” said Mallik. “This was a unique opportunity to learn and implement cutting-edge software, hardware, and technologies concepts in a mere 43 hours. The interactive and informative sessions were useful in sharpening our skills and enabling us to perform at our very best. Winning this hackathon and gaining such valuable experience is an incredible feeling, and I am thrilled to have been a part of this event.”
The event inspired both competitors and attendees, and provided a glimpse of what tomorrow’s minds can bring to the world.
“Speaking at Hack@CEWIT was a truly inspiring experience for me,” said Avish Parmar ‘23, a senior computer science major and vice president of the Stony Brook Computing Society. “Seeing the diverse range of students from college-level to eighth graders come together to learn and innovate was a testament to the power of curiosity and passion.”
— Robert Emproto