Miami University Students Place First in Cleveland Hack-a-thon
Pictured (left to right): Karan Gupta, Professor Arthur Carvalho, Ashton Barger, Jack Gilcrest, Dhairya Desai.
By Ashton Barger
Nov. 14, 2018
CLEVELAND — We did what we came here to do, and we got the bread.” A quote the Miami University team, coined “The (B)RedHawks,” was caught saying after placing first in the college category and third overall in the first ever Blockland Blockchain Hackathon at Cleveland State University, over the weekend. The Hackathon was created by Blockland Cleveland in preparation for their upcoming Blockland Solutions Conference, that Nick Szabo, Joe Lubin, and many others will attend.
Members of the team include; Dhairya Desai, a Sophomore Computer Science Major, Jack Gilcrest, a Sophomore Computer Science Major, Karan Gupta, a Sophomore Computer Science Major and Data Analytics Co-Major, and Ashton Barger, a Junior Business Economics Major and Data Analytics Minor. Also along for the ride was Professor Arthur Carvalho, an ISA professor at Miami and advisor to MUBC, that will be teaching the first Blockchain course that Miami has to offer next semester. He acted as a Coach and mentor to the team and proved to be a great help, through providing multiple development workshops and preparations for the team before they left.
Pictured: The team beginning their presentation on DocTrack, a document management platform built on the Hyperledger permissioned Blockchain.
If you have never experienced a Hackathon, it is basically two days to solve a problem or answer a question with specific technologies. In this competition, the teams were told to use Blockchain technology to create a product, idea, or solve a problem. It was left relatively open so that they could encourage all types of ideas. Competing in the event were 6 High school teams, 3 college teams, and 3 IT/Professional teams.
“27.4 million foreign nationals in the US must deal with an overwhelming number of documents; I have personally experienced the trouble of maintaining documents, it can be very intimidating. It was only natural to think of an idea in which Blockchain could help me and others who face this challenge.” This is the problem the team worked to solve over the weekend as described by Dhairya Desai, the creator of the idea.
The solution the team came up with was DocTrack, a private digital document management network using Hyperledger’s Permissioned Blockchain. “With Hyperledger we are able to offer the same functionality one has come to expect from a centralized back-end while also integrating the benefits of a distributed ledger.” Here Jack Gilcrest explains why Hyperledger worked as a perfect solution to the problem. Jack was the master coder of a lot of the backend Hyperledger composer, Ashton was the designer and creator of the front-end, Desai helped code and flesh out the problem, solution, and presentation, and Karan also helped code, and was the creator of some great mind maps and presentation material. Throughout this project, the team used their unique individual skills to play an integral piece of the final puzzle. It was clear that this team worked a lot harder than other groups, and came up with an outstanding idea and prototype. Their winning prize included drones for each member and a Yubico safe authorization key.
The winning teams were IT professionals with years of experience in Hackathons and Technology solutions. One of them had the idea of a Hyperledger network that let cars yield for others. They had a working app with Hyperledger Fabric running. It’s safe to say that the Miami University team did the best they could have. “I thought a Blockchain programming competition was about programming Blockchains.” This is what Jack had to say about the lack of real prototypes from the competitors. The (B)RedHawks had an actual blockchain up and running, but it seemed as though other teams decided to simply show judges ideas without technical support. It sounds like Jack needs some more serious competition because the ability to code a Hyperledger Blockchain must’ve made him pretty confident. All in all, it was a solid finish for a first attempt at a hackathon by the Miami University students, and they should be very proud of their accomplishments.
Pictured: The (B)RedHawks pose for a picture with two of the judges, Adam Gall, founder of Topaz, and Ken Clarke, Project Manager of Blockland.
There were definitely some big takeaways from this weekend by the top college team. Karan Gupta said, “Think about the problem not the solution, and when you know the problem well, you can easily solve it.” Desai expressed, “Our entire team’s hard work makes me believe in a future where immigrants aren’t burdened by paperwork.” The entire team also rallied behind this point and, by the end, agreed that they wanted to think about continuing with this project into the future to create a real company or solution out of it. Professor Carvalho was very happy with the students’ work and wants to continue coaching them in the future. The team knows what they can improve upon for next time, and thinks they can take home the gold in Ball State’s Spring Hackathon.
If you thought this experience seemed interesting, maybe you could get involved and compete in a Hackathon for yourself. I am speaking of the upcoming MUBC Blockchain Hackathon in the Spring of 2019. The team from this Hackathon, along with MUBC’s current exec, wants to bring a similar experience to Miami University for students from all around the state and country to compete in. If you have any questions, or would like to get involved with or help fund this event in any way, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.