Cal Poly Pomona students code their way to the top at MIT competition [San Bernardino County Sun, Calif.]
(San Bernardino County Sun (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 26--POMONA -- Four Cal Poly Pomona students spent 30 hours furiously coding at one of the country's top engineering schools and came out with a program that's already attracting attention from corporate America.
The four seniors competed at hackMIT on Oct. 5 and 6. (The term refers to the older, non-criminal definition of "hacker," still popular with hard-core programmers.)
"It's a competition where programmers come together and build something cool," whether hardware or software, said Bryan Thornsbury, a computer science major from Corona.
Team members can't bring anything of their own that they built ahead of time, although some publicly available code can be used.
The stakes are high for ambitious programmers:
"A hackathon is the 21st century career fair," said Ethan Chow, an electrical and computer engineering major from Walnut.
More than 300 groups and 1,100 students from around the world converged on MIT for the competition. The Cal Poly students won "best use of algorithms" for their app that looks at GPS signals to see where people are congregating.
The app is intended to answer the classic college student quandary: "What do I want to do right now? What's fun? What do I do tonight?" Chow said.
The program analyzes anonymous GPS information sent by cell phone apps (and, eventually, publicly available data from apps that also broadcast location data, like Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare). The data then is analyzed on a server and sent to a mobile application.
"Just like Facebook and all those other tools, it has to get to a critical mass to work," said Garret Porter, a computer science major from Santa Maria.
To avoid proclaiming the Department of Motor Vehicles or a grocery store as a hot spot, the application just lists places where groups are now arriving, not places where there's an all-day concentration of visitors.
And the app also learns over time what places are more interesting:
"Part of this (will) look at not only current data, but also historical data," Porter said.
The team also hopes to add information about weather conditions, so the app could predict where people will flock when it rains or on sunny days, said Rafael Rayo, a computer science major from El Monte.
The application's obvious commercial implications have attracted attention from venture capitalists and recruiters, both of which have contacted team members since the competition, although the group of four seniors are all so busy with other activities that they haven't yet had time to decide their next step in developing it.
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