Oglethorpe Senior Racks Up Hackathon Wins

IMG_8825Haider Khan ’15 doesn’t exactly fit the hacker stereotype. But, the Oglethorpe senior, who’s majoring in chemistry and minoring in computer science, recently bested the competition to win two back-to-back hackathons, as well as a start-up competition, all hosted in metro Atlanta. A testament to Haider’s skills and training, the victories have also been lucrative. So far, Haider and his teammates have won a total of $13,300 in cash and prizes.

In layman’s terms, a hackathon is a competition, usually lasting several days, in which groups of developers and other experts collaborate in computer programming to solve a given issue or challenge. The events typically are kicked off with an introduction to the sponsoring companies and a presentation about challenge the competitors will tackle. The sponsoring companies then give the developers access to their technology to create their solution.

Haider’s first competition was the AT&T Mobile App Hackathon, which focused on real public safety issues. Atlanta emergency medical responders, police officers, dispatchers, fire and rescue teams were onsite to discuss with the developers the challenges they encounter in their jobs. In response, Haider and his team built a hybrid mobile-web app called Safety Net to assist EMS responders in large scale disasters by tracking personnel in real time. They were awarded 1st place in Best Overall Public Safety App, 1st place in Best Use of AT&T’s WebRTC API, and 2nd place in Best Use of Telerik Technology.

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Haider (left) with his one of his Charge Forward teammates after their big win.

The next hackathon, for interactive wearable financial apps, was sponsored by Global Payments Inc. and CaixaBank in Barcelona. “At the second hackathon, the theme was wearables,” Haider explained, “so we were given smart watches and were told to come up with novel solutions to five challenges, ranging from ease of payment, user authentication, security, alternative payments, and design for payment services and transactions.” Haider and his team Charge Forward were awarded the $10,000 3rd prize for their smartwatch application that lets the user change credit card payment method with the flick of a wrist and uses NFC technology to process transactions on the spot.

Most recently, Haider competed in Atlanta Startup Weekend, hosted at Coca-Cola Company headquarters. Teams pitched startup ideas to judges (and an audience) and were evaluated on customer empathy (did their idea address a real problem for real people?), execution (did it work?), and their business model (how would it successfully compete in the market?). Haider’s team, GatherCam, pitched their idea and business plan for a program that would compile photos posted on various social media sites by different people at the same event, such as a wedding. Their idea was a true crowd pleaser and won over the judges, earning them 1st place in judge’s scores, as well as the audience choice award.

Haider (second from left) with his GatherCam teammates during the Atlanta Startup Weekend at Coca-Cola.

Haider (second from left) with his GatherCam teammates during the Atlanta Startup Weekend at Coca-Cola.

After graduation, Haider hopes to continue his efforts in creating innovative technology. He plans to move to California to work in Silicon Valley and eventually to start his own technology company. Haider is confident that the knowledge he’s gained while pursuing his education at Oglethorpe, particularly his minor in computer science, has helped him significantly in his recent accomplishments.

“I highly suggest to Oglethorpe students that if they have a passion for technology to take a computer science minor,” Haider advises. “I personally think the tech industry is extremely fun to work in (and) the applications are endless. We are moving into an economy where knowing how technology works is a currency.”

Sophomore’s Photography Exhibit First Step in Dream Career

Shannon at her exhibitionIn fall 2013, I was lucky to have my photography exhibited at Land of A Thousand Hills coffee shop in Roswell, Ga.

I got the opportunity by emailing them a few samples of my work, and they loved them! My photos were exhibited the next month and the opening night was one of the proudest moments of my life. The work I displayed was mostly nature shots, but I had a few portraits and photos from France and downtown Savannah as well.

Having my work in a coffee shop gallery taught me more than you might think. It taught me to take both criticism and praise, and it also helped me understand what my Oglethorpe photography professor meant by teaching us to arrange photos in a pleasing and easy to understand order. What I learned in my Compositions in Photography and Introduction to Digital Photography classes with Professor Sigrira Perret-Gentil helped me choose and create the most technically correct, universally appealing, and yet personally striking and meaningful photographs.

Adirondack On The Quad

Adirondack On The Quad

Even though most of my background is in nature photography and working with posed subjects, my dream is to be a photojournalist and capture real-life situations that cannot be re-created in a studio. I want my pictures to tell a true story. And I want those stories to challenge the ways people think about my subjects. Ultimately, I want to be a photojournalist for a non-profit that works for animal welfare.

My internship with Pegasus Creative in the Spring 2014 semester is teaching me to take pictures in the moment that will preserve those moments forever in Oglethorpe’s history, and to express myself in a visual way through photo essays— something that I could not have done before.