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.”

Night of the Arts: A Masterpiece

As an editor of The Tower literary magazine, I would normally hesitate in writing about Night of the Arts.  As much as I love the event, there is the possibility that my praises are biased. But this year, my “bias” seems to be shared by the OU community at large.

NOA, as we’ve started calling it, is an annual event held by The Tower to showcase the artistic talents of the OU community.  In the past, we’ve held the event in Emerson; this year, with the new campus center construction underway, we moved to Lupton Auditorium, and students welcomed the change.

“It was bigger than ever,” said audience member Bethany Booth ’13. “The change of venue made it much better and clearer and the performances were lovely.”

“Night of the Arts is one of my favorite Oglethorpe traditions,” added Tes Beals ’13. “It was the first event I was able to take my family to as a freshman…(and) it really showcases our student body’s unique talents and the creativity that we all possess.”

As always, getting everything ready for NOA was an ordeal, but my fellow ‘tri-editors,’ Caitlyn Mitchell ’13 and Lindsey Mitchell ’13, agree that the results made the hard work worthwhile.

“This year was really encouraging—the biggest turnout we’ve ever had—which is a really positive indication of The Tower‘s growth,” said Caitlyn. ” After resurrecting The Tower two years ago, it’s been an uphill battle to get (it) back on its feet, and it’s good to know hard work is paying off and that people are getting more involved with and aware of the arts.”

Also celebrating this increased awareness is Dr. Hornback, who spoke about how essential the arts are, and how we are in danger of losing many potential great artists because of funding cuts for art programs across the country. It was a sobering moment among the festivities, but a crucial one, highlighting the importance of those performers on stage.

People of various backgrounds and interests joined together to create a stellar array of acts. Some of their performances included spoken word, piano performance, and vocals. Audience members really seemed to enjoy what they were watching—some even chose to participate!

“My favorite thing about this Night of the Arts was the involvement that we were able to enlist from the audience,” said Lindsey. “This year we really hit on a theme that many people could enjoy.  We had our first impromptu dance routine and people from the audience actually joined in!”  That dance, The Time Warp, was a perfect fit with our theme of Cult Cinema.

Out of everything that night, there is only one thing I would change—there were so many people attending that we ran out of cake pops (a complimentary snack for attendees) before I had the chance to eat one!

Night of the Arts is becoming a true work of art in its own right, and it’s thanks to the OU community, that the arts are allowed to flourish. Thank you to SGA for funding this event, to our advisor Dr. Taylor for supporting us, to The Tower staff for all your hard work and dedication, and to everyone who performed, assisted, and watched. It’s all thanks to you that Night of the Arts was such a success.

If you are interested in being published by The Tower (the literary magazine responsible for Night of the Arts), send submissions with your name, email, and phone number to Secretary Caitlyn Mitchell at oglethorpetower@yahoo.com or to cmitchell@oglethorpe.eduThe cut-off for submissions is tomorrow, October 26th!  

Part II: Italy was “life-changing” for Oglethorpe student

This summer’s short term, for-credit trip to Italy made an enormous impact on the students who participated. Following up on the original post by Dr. Jeffrey Collins, we now hear from three of those students, in their own words.   [Part III]  [Part IV]

When people ask me “how was Italy?” I simply respond with “amazing”. The fact is, though, it was more than that. It was life-changing. I learned so much, saw so much, and had such a fantastic time that telling it all to someone like a story is simply impossible—there’s too much to fit in.

The schedule included monuments, museums, gardens and segway tours, but the best times of the trip were unexpected. We’d be tired after a day of walking, or hungry for lunch, or too full of information to handle another bite and then suddenly, out of nowhere, there’d be magic.

From the Medici-offices-turned-art-museum Uffizi, to the towering bronze-doored Duomo, Florence is magical. Walking the cobblestone streets overlooking the Arno, where Leonardo DaVinci walked, staring through glass at Galileo’s right hand, strolling through the market where old, weathered men hand-sew buttery leather pouches like their families have done for centuries, everything about Florence is interesting, beautiful and amazing.

There are, of course, some standout moments. At Reginella’s, a family-owned restaurant Dr. Collins found that became “our favorite” the first night, my pizza was delivered in the shape of a heart! (I think red hair is a novelty in Italy, haha.) It doesn’t matter what age, what major, or what you’re expecting, seeing Michelangelo’s David in person will stop your heart. When I saw it, I understood. He’s alive in the marble, and as you walk around him his brow seems to furrow, his chest heaves, his eyes flicker. He looks so alive that I half-expected his fingers to twitch around his sling. In Art and Culture, I learned that when the David was first shown to the public, people were scared because they thought he was alive. Now that I’ve seen it in person, I finally understand. It’s the kind of lesson you can’t learn from a textbook.

I’ve never had a formal art class, but having Professor Loehle on the trip was better. He took the time to explain the beauty in art and how it relates to what I’m studying. He showed us the elegance of Caravaggio, helped me realize my love for Giambologna, and inspired me to find beauty everywhere—from the most heavily-guarded painting in the Uffizi, to the faces of the people in the Piazza Navona. He became part of the trip family, always helpful, always upbeat, always “just here to help.”

My favorite part of Florence was the church of Santa Croce. I thought, when I walked in, that it was going to be another church in the line of churches we saw, all amazing and beautiful. But it was so much more. There are marble tombs in the floors with bas reliefs of the people in them. There are winding hallways that go to rooms with floor to ceiling cabinets full of centuries-old books with illuminated lettering. I went through a little door that was slightly ajar and found a tiny room with stone water fountains in the shape of lion heads lining one wall and a door in the floor beside a porch that led into a tiny garden. I took pictures and snuck around until I realized that it was an employee-only area. Restricted sections make the best adventures, and Florence was a beautiful adventure.

But it’s Rome that has my heart. When we walked around Rome with Collins and Loehle, it was a constant surprise. Dr. Collins is a walking encyclopedia, and many times I’d look around to find people from guided tours had ditched their neon-shirted tour guide in favor of listening to him speak. He had a way of making every topic we covered interesting, funny, and memorable, even if it was something I would never have cared about before. Once, he stopped us in front of side street and said “I’ve got a surprise for you!” We walked into an unassuming church and then one by one fell silent as we looked up at the most amazing ceiling I have ever seen, with frescos that seem to jump off the ceilings at Sant’Ignazio.

At the Vatican, we were again struck mute by the towering, frescoed ceilings, the light filtering through the windows onto Michelangelo’s Pieta, and the sheer number of people, all silent, all staring upwards.

Then there were the random days. A small group of us took a side trip to the Catacombs of San Sebastiano, miles and miles of tunnels where people have been buried for centuries. Being underneath Rome, walking by tombs with frescoed ceilings and still-intact ancient pots of oil is like being inside of history. There’s graffiti on the walls dating back to the 3rd century (Peter was here, 1989. Peter was here, 1771. Pietr was here 900. Petri was here 256.) The church above the catacombs has floors made of some of the oldest marble in Rome. I stepped on snail fossils bigger than my hand that date back to the Cretaceous period (65 million years ago! WHAT???)

(On our last day in Rome, Professor Loehle, Adrienne Findley, and I worked out my plan to move to Italia. I’ve already picked my apartment. By—ahem— COMPLETELY unplanned, TOTALLY accidental coincidence, it’s on the same street as the best gelato in Rome. Yes, you can visit.)

In a word, it was amazing. I used that word a lot on the trip, but astonishing, fantastic, extraordinary, unbelievable, no word can really capture the feeling of being so utterly swept off your feet by beauty, by history, by culture, by Italy. In Florence, we lived like Italians. When we returned to Rome, we walked like natives. When I go back, it will feel like I’m home. This experience was more than I could have ever hoped for, and I can’t wait to study abroad again.