2018 Annual IOL Hackathon

Last week concluded the second annual UNH-IOL Hackathon held here at the lab. The UNH-IOL hackathon is an event where programmers get together for a short period of time to collaborate on a project that will benefit the lab in some way or another. The Hackathon is  a week long event for UNH student employees to step away from their day-to-day grind and work together to provide long-term solutions for various lab wide projects. Students from all majors were broken up into groups of their choice to develop a new project or continue working on one from a previous project. I sat down on the last day of the UNH-IOL Hackathon to ask our students some questions about the software they had been working on and specific challenges they had run into.

Griffin Leclerc and Thomas Trowsdale worked on a project oriented around the UNH Techventures Camp which is hosted at the IOL. They connected toy train tracks to raspberry pies in order for the automated train to work with a mini stop light. For example, green light means the train is going at full speed and both relay switches are on. Yellow light means that the train is only working at half speed for there is only one relay switch working. Red light means the train has stopped. The goal for this project is to have young techies attending camp create their own IP addresses in order to hack into the software, switch the tracks, and ultimately derail the train. I thought this project was a creative way for our middle school (grade 6-11) Techventurers to learn about the software and get hands-on experience using this technology.  

Another group I sat down with was working on improving the way UNH-IOL test reports are written, which are given to our members. Specifically, students were working on updating the current schema to take either JSON or XML. As of right now, certification reports at the lab are hand written. Although it is legitimate, there is no specific format or tool to follow that generates these reports. Therefore, the task to write one up is a long process and quite tedious. Kyle Ouellette and his group had been working on this report generator project at last years Hackathon, and chose to continue their progress this year. The idea would benefit the lab on a greater scale but it has not been easy to implement. They said that the changes to the website and learning the software has been a huge learning curve. The components that go into this project include the website, data, test tool, generating work, and report format. When I asked if he came across any challenges, Kyle stated, “Sometimes tools don’t have the capabilities to complete certain tasks and it has been a huge learning curve to complete this project.” Although the project was not completely done by the end of this years Hackathon, they made a ton of progress and plan on completing the report generator within the next couple of weeks!

The other groups had been working on projects such as Open Source Implementation through TWAMP which is an automated messaging protocol. The goal for this project was to measure the performing characteristics of a live network. Another group created a new Firewall for the lab that they plan on finishing up in the next couple of weeks. At the end of the week students had to present their projects and explain to the lab the goals they had set for themselves.

There were many other well thought out projects at this years Hackathon. Students collaborated with one another and learned how to problem solve under a fast paced deadline. Many of the projects included a software that students had never learned or worked on prior to this event. When sitting down with some of the students, they said the hardest part was just teaching themselves how to implement different programs and tools needed to achieve their goal. I think it is important to recognize how knowledgeable our students are and how the UNH-IOL Hackathon creates opportunities for them to challenge themselves and work on something different. I am proud to see that the results of our second annual UNH-IOL Hackathon was a major success and I am looking forward to next years!