Hack Upstate XII: The Results Are In

Hack Upstate’s mission is to advance Upstate NY’s technology community.

Images courtesy of Daniel Viau — djviau@gmail.com

Checkout pictures from Hack Upstate XII — Images courtesy of Daniel Viau — djviau@gmail.com

Sincerest thanks to all involved with Hack Upstate XII this past weekend. Once again it was incredible to see so many talented Upstate, NY technologists come together to build, break, and collaborate.

We started Hack Upstate 5.5 years ago to address two problems:

  1. Reduce Upstate NY’s talent churn rate. We educate the best and brightest STEM talent in the country. We’re determined to keep them in Upstate, NY.
  2. Facilitate cross-collaboration between the regional tech communities (e.g., Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and the Capital Region).

Here we are nearly 6 years later and we’re proud to say we’ve created a network comprised of thousands of Upstate NY technologists and facilitated dozens of job placements.

Hack Upstate XII, presented by Raymour & Flanigan, was one of our largest events to date with over 200 sign ups. Here’s what they built:

Grand Prize

The $1000 grand prize went to the team behind the Home Buyer Open House Web App. Team member Alexander Jansing recently began looking at homes and attending open houses in the area. From his experiences he realized there were challenges and inefficiencies associated with trying to attend multiple open houses at different times.

Images courtesy of Daniel Viau — djviau@gmail.com
“What if two houses are significantly far apart, open at similar times, and there are other houses in each of their respective neighborhoods that open at different times? Is there a way I can plan my day of house hunting so that I can attend all of the open houses?”

In an effort to make the home buying process more efficient, Alexander and his team built a web application that allows users to search for open houses based on their personal preferences. For instance, a user can search for open houses in their area based on date and location. They can then optimize their route in a way that maximizes the number of open houses they can visit in a single trip.

To build the web application they used HTML , CSS, and Javascript. For the route optimization algorithm, they used the Esri ArcGIS Javascript API.

Team Members: Alexander Jansing, Jennifer Tran, Sylvia Pericles, Zhushun Cai, Oliver Medonza

First Runner-up

The first runner-up prize of $500 was awarded to Ashish Verma, a Hack Upstate veteran. Ashish’s project leveraged YOLO’s state-of-the-art, real-time object detection system in conjunction with a neural network and built a system for real time object detection.

Images courtesy of Daniel Viau — djviau@gmail.com

Prior detection systems repurpose classifiers or localizers to perform detection. They apply the model to an image at multiple locations and scales. High scoring regions of the image are considered “detections”.

Ashish solution, using YOLO, applies a single neural network to a full image. The neural network divides the image into regions and predicts bounding boxes and probabilities for each region. These bounding boxes are weighted by the predicted probabilities.

Team Members: Ashish Verma

Best Business Disruptor Idea from Raymour & Flanigan

The winner of Raymour & Flanigan’s Best Business Disruptor Idea went to Ignacio Mejias for his project, Hack My Team. Ignacio, a Senior Business Intelligence Analyst from Binghamton, built a tool that enables fantasy football players to optimize their rosters each week without needing to spend dozens of hours each week doing research.

Images courtesy of Daniel Viau — djviau@gmail.com

The Hack My Team application scrapes statistical player and team data from an assortment of web sources. It then imports the data into a relational database where it is parsed and used to generate a high-level executive summary for players. They can then use the data-driven summary to help optimize their weekly roster decisions.

To build the application Ignacio used Python to scrape the web data and populate his relational SQL database. He then uses R to parse through the data and create the automated custom reports.

Team Members: Ignacio Mejias

Best Hardware Hack

The Best Hardware Hack, brought to you by Arrow Electronics, went to Holographic Checkers. The team from RIT built a game of checkers that displays on a clear plastic “hologram”.

Images courtesy of Daniel Viau — djviau@gmail.com

The crowd was wowed by the demo which required turning off the lights in The Technology Garden’s theatre room in order to clearly display the hologram checkerboard, and demonstrate the functioning game mechanics.

Team Members: Sierra Dacey, Patrick Haynes, Celeste Gambardella, Alex Taylor, Kyle Zielinski, Nick Patel, Tristan Rix, Stephanie Dineen, Zeb Blank, Kenny Taylor, Steven Abbott, Sam Colly

Best User Experience

The Best User Experience prize, brought to you by TCGplayer, went to the team behind the TCGplayer-Bot. They built a Discord bot that can be used to query TCGplayer’s Developer API in order to find the coolest cards and swag available on their marketplace. They posited using Discord as the interfacing mechanism was practical given that many gaming communities and collectibles enthusiasts use Discord today to communicate with on another.

Images courtesy of Daniel Viau — djviau@gmail.com

Team Members: Micheal Scelzetti, Luca Pieples, Matthew Sprague

Best Use of Esri Technology

The best use of Esri’s GIS mapping software went to the Home Buyer Open House Web App team. They used Esri’s ArcGIS Javascript API to map out and determine the optimum routes for prospective home buyers to use when checking out multiple open houses in one trip.

Team Members: Alexander Jansing, Jennifer Tran, Sylvia Pericles, Zhushun Cai, Oliver Medonza

Honorable Mention

The team behind the Face of the Future application took home $100 for their application. They built a piece of facial recognition software that can be used to abstract information about certain individuals. The use case they describe:

“Say your in a super exclusive but still rather large Pokemon group. You think you see another member in the street. You want to challenge them to a duel, but alas, you don’t know their stats! Well now you can whip out your handy dandy face scanner and BAM! You know that this person has a 0.00001% chance of winning against you. You defeat them immediately bringing you great pride and happiness.”

Additionally, they mention that they application could be used as a security mechanism. For instance, Uber customers could verify their driver is in face a legitimate Uber driver by using their facial recognition software.

They built the application using PhoneGap app and by sending Ajax requests to a Node server in order to train their neural network, add faces, and request faces. They then compiled the PhoneGap app for Android and used the Android camera plugin to capture the images.

Team Members: Garnet Grim, Antonio Sustache, Xavier Yorks, Gabriel Sickler


With another Hack Upstate in the books, we’d be remiss if we didn’t take one last opportunity to thank all of our incredibly generous and supportive sponsors. We also must again thank our awesome panel of judges. We’re extremely fortunate to have their backing as we collectively work together and continue to advance Upstate New York’s technology community.

One last thing — if you attended Hack Upstate XII we would seriously appreciate you taking our Post Event Survey . It helps us improve and understand who is coming to our events. It should only take you 2–3 minutes. You can also leave a testimonial if you’d like, and we’ll add it to our website.

If you missed the demos — you can check them out on our Facebook live stream, or view the opening & closing decks.

See you in the Spring!

Enjoy this? You may enjoy reading about projects from Hack Upstate XI, Hack Upstate X, Hack Upstate IX, Hack Upstate VIII and Hack Upstate VII.

Images courtesy of Daniel Viau — djviau@gmail.com

Excited for next spring’s event? Join the Hack Upstate mailing list today!

Interested in sponsoring Hack Upstate?

Images courtesy of Daniel Viau — djviau@gmail.com