My hackNY application

Quite a few people have asked to see my hackNY application. Instead of individually emailing it, I’ve decided to just post it here. Hopefully this is helpfully to anyone considering to apply to hackNY. Before submitting it I had it reviewed by multiple friends, both technical (for content) and non-technical (for spelling, grammar, flow, etc etc.)

If you have any questions about the hackNY fellowship feel free to ping me on twitter @shyruparel or email me shy@mlh.io.

Tell us about a time you built something awesome in code. How did you choose it? Why did you enjoy it?

I enjoy planning and executing pranks on my friends. Some of the best pranks I’ve created have involved leveraging my abilities to write code. My favorite prank involved a Raspberry PI, webcam, speakers, Twilio, and a cardboard cutout of myself. Last year my close friend Lane was elected to the Student Government presidency at my university. As a perk, the University of Cincinnati gave an office to Lane. During Lane’s presidency, I accepted an internship in Dallas and I wanted to leave something exciting in his office that he could “appreciate,” while I was outside the state.

With this goal in mind, I repurposed a cardboard cutout I had of myself to create a direct line from his office to my cell phone. I mounted a webcam and speaker connected to a Raspberry PI to the cutout and placed it inside his office. As soon as the PI detected a face it would send me a text message using the Twilio API. I had the PI maintain a reverse SSH Tunnel so I could access it regardless of any irregularities with my campus network and at a moment’s notice be able to take control of the PI’s speakers and webcam or use Twilio to open up a VOIP call to his office. To the outside observer it would seem like my friend was having a conversation with a cardboard cutout.

I enjoyed the project’s creation and in particular relished combining all the different parts into this cohesive and memorable prank. I’ve always enjoyed technology and being able to use it to humor myself and my friends. Lane’s reaction the first time he entered his office saw the cardboard cutout and heard it comment on his choice of tie was priceless. The project also turned out to be a great communication tool for us to continue discussing technology projects for our Student Government.

Tell us about what you hope to learn this summer and why is hackNY right for you.

As a result of my degree at the University of Cincinnati I’ve experienced some great co-ops working in the industry at companies like Epsilon and the Air Force Research Labs. During this I’ve come to appreciate the opportunities to work with small teams. Working with Student Government at my school has given me the opportunity to be in a position where my decisions in regards to technology actually mattered. I’ve created code that was used by thousands of students at UC. The time I’ve spent at hackathons and Startup Weekends has constantly reaffirmed my passion for building and creating projects while leveraging my abilities to code.

HackNY provides an opportunity to create and build while also being able to participate in groups and teams of the best and brightest new graduates from around the country.

HackNY also provides an opportunity for me to come to NYC and be able to take advantage of the sheer density of meetup groups, hackerspaces, events, programs, and people available for anyone with an interest in technology.

Is there a particular technology or industry you’re currently interested in? Why? Where do you see it heading in the future?

For the last few months I’ve been spending time working with building drones with the ArduPilot platform. My senior design project is based on extending my existing work with my Drones. The application of drones outside of the military is extremely interesting. The FAA recently unveiled plans for drone flights in the US. This makes it extremely likely that we’ll see another boom in interest for the DIYDrones movement as people begin to use drones for industrial, weather, agricultural, and general commercial usage by 2015.

I see a large organizations and photographers becoming more invested in the Drones as a way to cheaply secure aerial footage without requiring a helicopter. I also see fire departments and police deploying them as a way of obtaining information that can save first responder lives in extreme situations.

Discuss your technical skills/proficiencies/languages and experience

I started coding my freshman year of highschool, nine years ago. My strongest proficiencies are in Python and C++. I am also experienced in HTML, CSS and Javascript, which I TA a class on for my local chapter of Girl Develop It. I have a casual interest in Data Visualization and have recently been working to learn D3.js.

When you’re not coding, what do you like to do for fun?

Outside of coding I’ve enjoyed my time working on projects as a member of my University’s Student Government. Because of Student Government I’ve met some of my closest friends. I’ve gotten a chance to work on projects specifically aimed at the betterment of the student experience at Ohio public universities, meet with state legislatures and university officials and create initiatives that have had a direct impact on my peers and classmates. While I do occasionally utilize my ability to code, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with my softer skills, specifically in advocating for increased diversity and transparency.

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