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Georgia Tech Datathon Draws Fierce Competition from 20 Countries

Grit, determination, and creativity coupled with some impressive technological innovation were on full display during the 2021 Georgia Tech Hackyltics: Building a Data-Driven World 36-hour datathon.

Three hundred and forty-nine students from 20 countries took part in the virtual hackathon. Challenges included:

  • leveraging the power of data to uncover hidden insights in the chaotic world of stock markets (sponsored by Citadel);
  • managing the complexities of a vaccine distribution program (sponsored by Anthem); and
  • sports challenges related to tennis, track, and football (sponsored by the Georgia Tech Athletic Association).

“What happened at this weekend’s hackathon was incredible,” said Doug Allvine, Georgia Tech Athletic Association Assistant Director - Innovation. “But even more incredible is what can happen tomorrow based on ideas these students came up with today.”

Georgia Tech Computer Science and Computer Engineering students Allison Kwan, Pan Yu, and Cynthia Wang teamed up to win the overall grand prize for Best Hack with their creation “Voices of the Vaccine,” an interactive map visualization tool that displays Twitter users’ views of the Covid-19 vaccine. For their efforts, they were awarded both a GPS drone and a prized invitation to Tech’s Create-X’s Startup Launch program for Summer 2021.

hacklytics winners

“Hacklytics was an amazing experience,” said Wang.  “We felt like the competition was a great opportunity to deepen our understanding of data visualization and machine learning. We were so pleased to see the other remarkable project submissions in all of the fields and were inspired by what other teams were able to accomplish in such a short timeframe. We would definitely encourage other students to participate in the Hacklytics datathon in the future.”

 Another all-Georgia Tech team, Wolf of Wall Street Bets, won Best Financial Hack. For their project, teammates Peggy Zhao and Yukt Mitash built algorithmic visualizations of stock trends on social media for investors.

To get a more in-depth look at the innovations created by all of the teams, visit Hacklytics’ Project Gallery to read descriptions and see some short videos of each team’s project.

Coordinating an International Virtual Hackathon

Data Science @ GT, a Georgia Tech club for undergraduate students in data science and analytics, teamed up with Major League Hacking, the official collegiate hacking league, to put on the weekend-long event which featured, in addition to the data-hack competition, guest speakers, sponsor sessions, workshops, and fun social events such as Pictionary and slideshow karaoke.

“Our club’s mission is to empower every student with a data science skill set, particularly with an emphasis on community and being data-informed citizens,” said Hacklytics Event Director and Data Science @ GT Club Executive Board Member Maxim Geller.  “Hacklytics is the largest event we host every year and is an amazing opportunity to reach an even larger community of aspiring data scientists outside of the club. This year, for the first time, we combined the annual hacklytics event with the Georgia Tech Athletic Association’s Sports Innovation Challenge."

It wasn’t just the hackers who overcame some impressive challenges. Preparation for the event began in the summer, and student organizers wrestled with the obstacles of working together virtually—with sometimes more than a 12-hour time difference between their locations—to transform an in-person hackathon into a virtual worldwide event. In fact, even though the event is over, most of the planning team members have yet to meet in person.

Members of the Hacklytics student leadership team who organized the hackathon included Udisha Bhattachrayya, Daksh Gupta, Michelle Hou, Tanya Gupta, Andrew Wang, Irene Lee, Jaden McElvey, Rishab Solanki, Shachi Shah, and Emma Dang.

Despite—or because of—the challenges created by a virtual event, the end result turned out even better than expected.

“Something I really liked about Hacklytics this year was the inclusivity and access an online event creates,” said Geller. “Even when hackathons go back to being held in person, the fact that somebody can't make it down to Georgia Tech for a weekend in February should not hold them back from participating. We've shown that it can be done remotely, bringing in more competitors and enhancing the overall impact of the event.”

Hacklytics 2021 event sponsors included Anthem, Emerson, Citadel, and the Business Analytics Center (BAC) at the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business. Additional sponsors included Georgia Tech CreateX, the Georgia Tech Athletic Association, and the Georgia Tech Student Foundation.

“Hacklytics was an amazing weekend of learning, building, and sharing,” summed up Geller. “I truly believe in the pedagogy of learning by doing; college courses are great at explaining theory but students like myself crave the opportunity to focus on application and to make something cool. Hackathons are perfect for this because of the accountability created by the shared community all working on their different projects.”

During the Closing Ceremonies, BAC Managing Director Keith Werle praised everyone from sponsors to judges to students. “What an impressive display of brain power, skills, talent and perseverance—shown by both competitors and organizers!” said Werle.Shout out to the sponsors who made the entire weekend possible, the Data Science @ Georgia Tech Executive Board (many of whom both planned and took part in the event), and last but definitely not least, the participants for an amazing competition. Hacklytics 2021 grew from two small hackathons to a larger and more inclusive worldwide program. I am excited to see this format grow and become one of our keystone events.”

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