DerbyHacks: ‘Smart City’ student hackathon returns for second year

Sam Nwosu (foreground) and some of the organizers of DerbyHacks. | Photo by Sam Nwosu

Louisville is about to get hacked, but don’t worry, it’s just college students looking for ways to improve the city, which is trying to become smarter about data and connectivity.

DerbyHacks, the student-only hackathon in its second year, has adopted a “smart city” theme for its 36-hour hackathon next month.

Students, in teams of one to four people, have from 6:30 p.m. Friday until noon on Sunday to create something that solves some city-related problem. This could come in the form of software, app or hardware.

Organizer Sam Nwosu said the city’s big push to “use big data to make the city smarter” and to nurture the maker community led the organizers to give the event that focus. “I want to let Louisville know that Speed students are doing things for the city,” Nwosu said.

The hackathon, Feb. 24 to 26, will be at the as-yet-unopened Gigabit Experience Center in Louisville Central Community Centers’  Old Walnut Street Development.

COO of Louisville Central Community Centers, Kevin Fields, told IL that the Gigabit Experience Center will be up and running “within the next month or so.”

Nwosu is the president of the Speed ACM, the student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery at the University of Louisville. He’s a graduate student in computer science and computer engineering in his last semester of school. Nwosu is a Louisville native who attended DuPont Manual High School.

Last year, the free event drew around 60 participants. So far, Nwosu said he’s received more than 200 RSVPs. The event will max out at 300 participants.

The hackathon provides mentors and workshops during the event. The organizers are providing meals, snacks, and T-shirts to every participant. Nwosu also promises some event-related swag.

The teams will go through a multitiered judging processes, with the best of the best presenting to a team of judges. Nwosu is lining up those judges and the prizes that will be awarded to the best and most creative solutions.

Last year’s winning idea was a sentiment analysis project that scraped Twitter for feelings about Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton. The judges didn’t know it at the time, but the analysis indeed picked the winner. A hardware entry was an armband that aided blind people. The closer they got to a wall or solid object, the harder the armband squeezed their arm.

Sponsors for the this year’s event include Humana, KFC, the Speed School and Louisville’s Office of Performance Improvement & Innovation.

The event is part of the Major League Hacking circuit, now in its 17th season. Nwosu said that he and the seven- or eight-person organizing group are looking for mentors and sponsors. To volunteer or sign up, visit the DerbyHacks website.