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.”

Petrel Intern Makes a Difference at the Latin American Association

479924_10151166982738446_1862507659_n (1)The Latin American Association was established in 1972 with the mission to help Latino families achieve their aspirations for their academic, social and economic advancement. This is accomplished through direct programs and integrated community partnerships that focus on youth academic achievement, education and prevention and services to families with urgent needs. Vicky Herbener ’14 is helping the association to fulfill those goals.

Vicky, an international studies major, wanted to intern with the Latin American Association because of her interest in helping immigrants to make a better life. There, she teaches English, Spanish and computer classes, plus she assists the program director with creating lesson plans. Her other duties include helping with marketing and fundraising. Vicky’s favorite part of her internship is seeing the results — the satisfaction of the people who once needed help.

10317663_10152500591464169_2758810045530574488_oAn LAA internship requires skills in writing, translating and the ability to interact effectively with different types of people. Vicky felt she was prepared thanks to her Oglethorpe education. “It’s important to translate a phrase into Spanish with the same meaning, she said, ” and because I translated so much at Oglethorpe, I felt prepared.”

Vicky advises students who are applying for internships to not to be afraid to apply for the ones you want, even those that may seem out of reach. “Don’t worry about if you have enough experience for it or not,” Vicky says. “Apply anyway, because you never know unless you try.”

International Internship Opens Eyes to the Real World

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Like many students, sophomore Maggie Crawford ’16 planned an internship as part of her college experience. Unlike most others, her internship was also an international adventure—in India.

India_2Maggie, who is studying international marketing, an individually planned major, worked as a structural advisor for the Mysore Resettlement and Development Agency (MYRADA). In her role, she was responsible for counseling on operations and organizational improvements in MYRADA’s programs that benefit disadvantaged populations.

Maggie found this opportunity through Oglethorpe’s Atlanta Laboratory for Learning (A_LAB), which helps students to put their classroom learning into practice by combining “real world” experiences in professional development, global education, civic engagement, and/or undergraduate research.

India_4Internships abroad can be very different from those in the U.S., which Maggie found out firsthand. “You get to find out what it is like to work somewhere else and learn about the culture of their work,” she says. “By combining travel abroad and internships, you just get a better sense of why you’re there.”

Maggie also faced challenges in acclimating to a different culture. “First, there was the language barrier,” she says. “When I went, I learned a couple of words in Hindi, but I learned that they actually speak something called Kannada. So, it wasn’t actually helpful at all. And, they’d never seen an American where I went, so they were always looking at me.”

India_1Maggie now uses her international internship experience to inform her contributions to classroom discussions. “It has shown me different perspectives,” she says. “We were studying the temples in India in ‘Art & Culture.’ I actually got to see those, firsthand.” Overall, she says her global experience “has made me more aware of the people around me.”

Next on the Maggie’s itinerary is China, where she hopes to add to her repertoire of real world professional experiences around the world.

Study Abroad Awesomeness

Autumn Wright 4I’ve heard plenty of excuses why students don’t want to study abroad. They don’t want to miss out on a semester. They’re afraid they’ll get behind. Perhaps there’s an internship they want to do, or a concert they want to go see. Maybe they think that it’s too difficult to put all their friends and family behind them and run away for a year.

Let’s get this straight: study abroad is not always the glamorous life depicted on the glossy brochures in front of Dr. Collins‘ office, where a politically-correct diverse range of students stand in front of An Important, Easily-Recognizable Monument and flash their Photoshopped-white teeth at the camera on a perfect spring day.

But sometimes it is.

Autumn Wright 3The Road to Cultivation 128There are moments that feel perfect, those once-in-a-lifetime sparks that imprint themselves on your mind. Standing on a bridge over the Seine on New Year’s Eve at midnight while the Eiffel Tower lights up and fireworks flash over the Parisian skyline. Climbing to the top of some ridiculously tall, ridiculously old cathedral so you can catch a glimpse of the city from above. Lying on the grass with new found friends from all corners of the globe, the taste of the pastry you bought at the nearest boulangerie still on your tongue. And, feeling like the world’s biggest bad ass for navigating London’s winding roads and underground on two hours of sleep.

Autumn Wright 2Study abroad will lead you to places that you never pictured yourself going. For example, even though I’m studying in France at the moment, I’ll be going to England in a fortnight with my job. I have an internship this summer through my school here in France that spans across three different countries, taking me all the way from Amsterdam to Paris. (Which seriously rocks. If I’d stayed in Atlanta, I would probably have some cookie cutter internship that would have involved making copies and using my honed barista skills to brew pots of coffee.)

Autumn WrightSeriously. Study abroad is one of the best experiences of my life. College is one of the only times where you can take a semester or two “off” and just go somewhere and it’s perfectly acceptable. If you try doing the same with your boss in a couple years’ time, I doubt they’d be too thrilled to let you go adventuring across Europe. Study abroad now, or else regret it later.

Autumn Wright, an Oglethorpe University junior majoring in French, is studying abroad and interning in Lille, France.