Brandeis coding contest brings new ideas to life

group of people dancing in front of a blackboard and behind a science tablePhotos/Mutiara Carney '22

The student-alumni organizing team for Codestellation celebrated their 24-hour triumph.

From ingenious solutions for waste disposal to a wristwatch that detects opioid overdoses, Codestellation 2019 gave young computer programmers the space to bring new ideas to life.

Organized by Brandeis Initiative for Machines, Apps, and Programming (BITMAP), Codestellation is an annual twenty-four-hour hackathon held in the Shapiro Science Center. At this day-long event, twenty-eight teams assembled from more than eighty different schools to collaborate on a project and present it at the end. Winning categories included Judges’ Pick, Best High School Hack, Best Beginner Hack, and the Social Impact Award. Prizes donated by sponsors ranged from Beats by Dre Headphones to Sodastreams to Amazon Alexas.

Dedicated coders arrived at Brandeis on Saturday morning with sleeping bags and pillows in hand, ready for an exhausting but exhilarating stretch of coding, creating, and collaborating. Some were veteran hackers while others were high school students completely new to coding. While many participants came in with an idea of what they wanted to create, others arrived with a blank slate ready to contribute whatever their team had planned. By Sunday afternoon, each team had designed a project ready for the judges’ eyes.

Enter Title

One Brandeis team developed the Tactile Navi, a device attached to a glove to help visually impared people navigate the environment.

Codestellation sets itself apart from other hackathons with its emphasis on diversity and inclusivity. No prior coding experience is needed to participate, and high school students, as well as students from other colleges across the country, are encouraged to join. The first Codestellation four years ago boasted 30 percent female participants and 50 percent first-timers. Since then, the event has grown to now attract 40 percent female participants and also draws in more high schoolers who are just entering the world of hacking.

Unlike other computer programming events that cater to more experienced coders and are focused on prizes, Codestellation emphasizes the importance of fostering a community of coders of different skill sets and levels of experience. “Meeting new people in the maker community is empowering for you to keep learning and growing as a programmer,” Codestellation’s lead organizer and social media coordinator, Adam Fleishaker, told me.

As a non-coder myself, most of the technical details of the final presentations went over my head. Nevertheless, the innovative and useful ideas that these hackers came up with fascinated me. One team designed an application called T.R.A.S.H. which stands for Targeted Rubbish Assistant Handler. Using image recognition technology, this app aims to help people dispose of waste properly. By uploading a picture of your waste, the app will tell you whether to recycle, compost, or trash the item. If popularized, T.R.A.S.H. could significantly reduce the amount of waste brought to landfills. 

The team that won the Social Impact award came up with an idea that could potentially save lives. The Opioid Overdose Detector is a Fitbit-like wristwatch that can detect when an individual is showing signs of an opioid overdose such as slowed heartbeat and breathing.

Tactile Navi was the product created by a Brandeis team of hackers and ended up winning Best Hardware Hack. Created for people with visual impairments as a more accurate replacement to white canes, this device is attached to a glove that gives its user navigation directions through different vibrations.

group of students stand in front of a blackboard

Another Brandeis team won Best Mobile/Web App with Tempo Run, which alters the beats per minute of a user's music.

My personal favorite presentation was by the team who created Tempo Run. This application alters the beats per minute of the music you play from your phone to match the cadence of your steps. Have you ever been out jogging when suddenly a slow or romantic song starts playing and messes up your groove? With Tempo Run, you will never have to skip a slow song again as every song will be transformed into the ideal workout tune. I was glad when this team was announced the winner of the Best Mobile/Web App category.

As foreign as the world of computer programming is to me, it was inspiring to see my fellow students’ hard work pay off after twenty-four long, mostly sleepless hours that they devoted to their final products. The organizers were proud to say that this was the largest, most expansive Codestellation yet and they cannot wait to see what groundbreaking hacks next year’s hackathon has in store.

Interested in organizing or participating in Codestellation 2020? Get involved with BITMAP by visiting their Facebook.
group of people standing against a blackboard and behind a science table

A satisfied Codestellation team puts this year's hackathon in the books.

Categories: Science and Technology, Student Life

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage