News Release

Yahoo! Hack U a Hit at UC San Diego

San Diego, CA, May 18, 2010 -- Computer programming students from the University of California, San Diego were anything but “hackadaisical” when a week-long Web programming extravaganzaYahoo! Hack U – came to campus. In a 24-hour computer programming marathon that spanned an entire Thursday night, UC San Diego student teams hacked together a concert finder, a tool that adds favorite movies from friends’ Facebook profiles to your Netflix queue, a date-scheduling application, an early-morning multitasking program, and many other new online applications. Students created each app by combining tools, resources and data already available on the Web.

The camaraderie and energy generated by the overnight coding event inspired Gabriela Ponce and the rest of her all-female, all-freshman computer programming team to ask Yahoo! to track down their famed “code like a girl” tee-shirts. Four from the team wore their stereotype-breaking shirts the following week to their data structures midterm (CSE12).

An All Freshman Team from Hack Day 2010

Kristina Pinkerton, Suman Malani, Gabriela Ponce, Haronid Moncivais are part of the all-freshman computer programming team that requested “Code Like a Girl” tee-shirts during Hack U 2010 at UC San Diego. The team created an automatic schedule generator during the 24 hour computer programming marathon sponsored by Yahoo!. (Photo that includes Janet Barrientos is here.) Not pictured: Ashley McGuire.

“I thought I wasn’t going to like computer science because I didn’t fit the stereotype of a computer science person, but I really like it. I’m definitely a possible [computer science] major now,” said Ponce, recalling her mindset last fall as an incoming freshman.

During the 24-hour coding session, Ponce and her teammates hacked together an automatic class-schedule generator. Add the classes you want to take to a spreadsheet, and the new application creates all possible schedules.

“Seeing all the different scheduling possibilities, we thought that would be really helpful,” explained Ponce. “What discussion sections are going to mess up your schedule?” This is the kind of question the hack can answer, said Ponce.

According to the Hack U Web page on the Yahoo! Developer Network, University Hack Day “… is not about perfect code, just your creativity, a cool idea and a working prototype. You’ll have access to tons of APIs and tools in the Yahoo! Developer Network (check out YQL, the YUI Library,SearchMonkey and BOSS just to name a few).”

More from the Yahoo! Hack U Web pages: “This is your shot to develop something that will revolutionize the industry, make the world a better place or at least make the judges laugh...”

The winning UCSD team – they call themselves iRock – certainly did make an impression on the judges, who were each given an iPhone at the start of the presentation. Running on each iPhone was the team’s hack – a location-aware Web application that finds nearby, upcoming music concerts that fit the user’s music preferences.

“For each of the shows, our hack returns the date and time, the address, and from that, you can view a map,” explained David Vanoni who hosts the hack at: 

One of Vanoni’s teammates, computer science undergraduate Andrew Huynh, is still working on the project. He and electrical engineering (ECE) Ph.D. student Luke Barrington are integrating algorithms for listening to music into the hack. (Congratulations to Luke Barrington, who together with computer science (CSE) PhD student Brian McFee just won a 100K 2010 Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship.)

“When I first tell people about Yahoo! Hack Day, they usually ask ‘What are you hacking into?’ I explain to people that it’s not hacking into something but hacking something together,” said Vanoni, who is finishing up his computer science undergraduate degree this quarter and is weighing his options for graduate school.

“Hanging out with a group of people for 24 hours was fun, and it was fun to work with the Yahoo! engineers too. We got good input from the Yahoo! guys on what we were doing,” said Vanoni.

About 75 UCSD students – primarily computer scientists – on 30 teams took part in Hack U 2010. The judging panel included Yahoo! Engineers, computer science faculty  Rick Ord and Gary Gillespie, and electrical and computer engineering (ECE) professor Gert Lanckriet, all from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

The first place team – they call themselves iRock – will travel to Sunnyvale, California later this year to compete in the Yahoo! Grand Hack Championship.

But as this YouTube video clearly demonstrates, all the UC San Diego students are already champions…they hack like champions.

Final Results for Hack U 2010 at the Jacobs School

Best Overall
1st Place
Hack: Rock My World: Geo-location based iPhone web application to find the nearest music gigs.
Team: iRock
Students: Andrew Huynh BS CSE’10, David Vanoni BS CSE’10, Matt Peterson BS CSE’10.

2nd Place:
Hack: Friends Favorite Movies: Application that enables Facebook users to browse their friend's favorite movies, and add them to a Netflix queue.
Team: UCSD Team Bean
Students: Qays Poonawala BS CSE’11, Lance Castillo BS CSE’11

3rd Place
Hack: Date Roulette: Bringing romance to UCSD via free time based random date scheduling. Never spend another loveless moment waiting by yourself.
Team: Ground Up Designs
Students: Jacob Lyles MS CSE’10, Thomas Weng MS CSE’10, Jawon Lee BS CSE’12, Doran Joy BS CSE’13

Best Mobile
Hack: Breakfast – Morning multitasking for those who need another excuse to delay getting out of bed. Check missed email, messages, local news, local traffic reports, and stocks all from the comfort of your bed with just one click.
Team: We Can’t Cook
Students: Jeff Chang BS MAE’10, Jeff Chien BS MAE’10, Avinash Ananth BS CE’13

Hack for Good
Hack: Saver List – Application that looks up disasters data (e.g. earthquakes) and confirms the status of the users in a certain mile radius from its center. The potential victims of the disaster will be accessed in a real time. This application also reports response (safe, hurt, or not found) for those in the affected areas.
Team: Life Savers
Students: Amir Shirkhani, Allan Souza, Mohammad Zohour

Honorable Mentions for the Overall Hack category
Hack: Breakfast – Morning multitasking for those who need another excuse to delay getting out of bed. Check missed email, messages, local news, local traffic reports, and stocks all from the comfort of your bed with just one click.
Team: We Can’t Cook
Students: Jeff Chang BS MAE’10, Jeff Chien BS MAE’10, Avinash Ananth BS CE’13

Hack: Memory Apocalypse - A flashcard memory system which uses the spacing effect to maximize studying efficiency. Good for the end of the world.
Team: Unicorn Apocalypse
Students: Bulat Bochkariov BS CSE’13, David Watson BS CSE’12, Li Pi BS CSE’12

Hack: UTagIt Search - Custom community tagging that lets you experience the better parts of searching the web.
Team: Tag Team
Students: Robert Dunlap BS CSE’12, Hung Tran BS CSE’12, George Wu BS CSE’12, Joshua Greenfield BS CSE’11


Media Contacts

Daniel Kane
Jacobs School of Engineering