MTSU Hack MT reveals ‘brilliant’ tech projects, student talent

MTSU Hack MT reveals ‘brilliant’ tech projects, student talent [+VIDEO]

Hackers Choice Award winners

The Second Harvest Food Bank/MTSU Data Science Institute group earned both second place and Hackers Choice awards. Mentored by Dr. Charlie Apigian, Director of the Data Science Institute.

With brain power and a $3.50 domain fee, one team created its own website: In 36 hours’ time, a second team provided help to solve Nashville-based Second Harvest Food Bank’s warehouse woes both now and in the future.

That’s normal for the approximately 20 teams — and a record 200-plus students — competing in the 2019 MTSU Computer Science-led Hack MT. The three-day event concluded Sunday, Jan. 27, in the Science Building.

MTSU senior Thomas Sctt demonstrates his group's app at Hack MT.

MTSU senior Thomas Scott, right, demonstrates his augmented reality group’s application during the fourth annual Hack MT Jan. 27 in the Science Building. (MTSU photo by Kimi Conro)

Knowing Nashville’s and the Midstate’s growing technology needs, the fourth annual event brings together college and university teams — plus a high school student or two — to collaborate among themselves and with mentors, alumni and others to create music, video games, sound tracks, dance games and more.

“These are really brilliant kids,” MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said of the Second Harvest team and the others.

Later, while addressing the students and volunteers McPhee acknowledged their “innovation, creativity and endurance.” He visited virtually all of the teams and even accepted alumnus Steven Sheffey’s dance challenge for the “Breakdown” game.

The drive of Charlie Apigian, interim director of MTSU’s Data Science Institute, initiated the collaboration with Second Harvest and instilled passion and determination for the 25 team members that included computer science, information systems and mathematics students from five universities.

“Teamwork was huge,” said Rosh Chalkery, 19, an MTSU junior information analytics major from Nashville, discussing the Second Harvest team and adding that “we’re going to continue to help Second Harvest continue to serve the homeless in Middle Tennessee.”

“What I love about Hack MT is that it’s the perfect opportunity for students getting started in technology, coming in and seeing what they are capable of,” said Apigian, whose team earned the Hackers Choice Award.

2019 Hack MT crowd

Judges and visitors review the teams’ projects during the “science fair” portion of the fourth annual Hack MT Jan. 27 in the MTSU Science Building. The three-day, 36-hour hackathon drew a record 200-plus students. (MTSU photo by Kimi Conro)

Frank Ellmo, Second Harvest senior director of operations, called the students’ efforts “amazing. … We were here Friday night for the pitch, we came back for two hours Saturday to answer questions and this (project) is a really cool display. I can take that to drive how I model the physical plant. I can’t wait until next year. This was a lot of fun.”

Allie Binkley, 30, a wife, mother and MTSU information systems graduate student, said being on the 10-member app team was “fun, awesome and I’m super proud of our team,” she said. Callie Deas, 22, a Belmont University senior and computer science major from Columbus, Ohio, called it “a great learning experience and the more we worked together the more we got to know each other.”

Hack MT logo

Jacob Rakidzich, a mobile application developer with Brentwood, Tennessee-based Ramsey Solutions, said it was “awesome to see young people willing to collaborate and work together and learn to deliver a product.”

One team he monitored, in devising a self-driving car program, had their computer hardware malfunction. “They didn’t just quit. They changed and adapted with hours to spare. They ended up not competing (for awards), but they made an impression.”

MTSU alumna Cassie Martin (Class of 2012 in business management in the Jones College of Business) said her company, L3 ForceX, joined Asurion as a co-primary sponsor in its first Hack MT venture and they were there “recruiting for internships and full-time positions. We’re here looking at this talent.”

Martin and her L3 colleagues had “better opportunities to get to know them” and learn, through teamwork, that “all departments in all areas of the business work together. That’s how a business runs.”

CDUB won first place at Hack MT

Team CDUB members Candace Boyce and Jacob Crawford of MTSU and Garrett Ladd and Matt Klomfas of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville are shown with their Professional Choice Award they earned Jan. 27 during the fourth annual Hack MT in the Science Building. (MTSU photo by Kimi Conro)

Senior homeschooler Nathan Malone, 18, of Murfreesboro, joined Luke’s team — Luke StanleyAndrew DillingerMuhammed AbedJordan FlowersJonathan Shields — that created a last-minute TowerFall-type retro screen game when their original idea fell through regarding a proposed solution for Nashville traffic during bad weather.

Team CDUB — MTSU students Candace Boyce and Jacob Crawford joined by University of Tennessee-Knoxville students Garrett Ladd and Matt Klimfas— earned first place in the Professional Choice Awards. They created an “augmented reality sandbox” that would change colors, based on terrain, when things were moved.

Computer science is one of 11 departments in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.


MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee participants in Hack MT "Breakdown Game" challenge.

MTSU alumnus Steven Sheffey, left, MTSU challenges MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee to a dance-off in his group’s “Breakdown” game Jan. 27 during the grand finale to the fourth annual Hack MT in the Science Building. (MTSU photo by Kimi Conro)


Nicholas Matala describes his group’s Second Harvest Food Bank/Data Science Institute product, created in collaboration with MTSU’s Data Science Institute, Jan. 27 during the fourth annual Hack MT in the Science Building. The students are assisting Second Harvest with improving warehouse production. (MTSU photo by Kimi Conro)