Burning the Midnight Keyboards

By Hannah Fitzpatrick '21, December 21, 2018
Students compete to build apps in first-ever IC Code{a}thon.
Computer code on a black screen
(Photo by Vintage Tone/Shutterstock)

If you want to know how dedicated the teams in the first-ever Ithaca College Codeathon were, just ask computer science major Colin Hay ’20. “One of our partners nearly fell asleep while eating pizza,” he said.

Close to 20 straight hours of coding will do that to even the most dedicated students. Hay’s group, which also consisted of Harry Margalotti ’20 and Tim Clerico ’19, fought through the drowsiness to take home first place in the competition, which took place from Dec. 1-2 in Clark Lounge.

The trio created a natural language processor that would find and organize hate speech on Reddit to make it easier to track and regulate. By identifying and flagging hate speech, they could improve the user experience.

“Ideally, we’ll be able to determine whether certain communities on Reddit are more hateful than others and use that data to express how hateful language can have a huge impact on the internet as a whole,” Hay said. “We focused on political subreddits because it seems like political discussion is usually very hateful and unproductive.”

Mark Volkov '21 (left) and Dylan Shane '19 at the codeathon

Mark Volkov '21 (left) and Dylan Shane '19 helped code an app that highlights accessible pathways on the Ithaca College campus.

Although working non-stop around the clock was a challenge, Hay and his teammates came up with a system that worked for them. “We mapped out the entire project so that each of us would have an individual sub-task, and then we would bring it all together into a cohesive, working program,” he said.

The coding competition was created by Jenna Linskens, associate director of learning technologies. In addition to giving students a chance to create an app that would have a global impact, she wanted the event to be inclusive and welcoming to students regardless of prior experience.

“Being a woman in computing is a rare breed. There’s not a lot of women involved in the computer science or information technology field,” Linskens said. “As such, I felt that it was really important to have an event where anybody could come in, whether you’ve never coded before or you’re a computer science major with 10 years of coding experience.”

The second-place group reflected Linskens desires for the event. Consisting of community health major Emily Pressman ’20 and graduate occupational therapy students Hannah Shade and Mara Erb, they aimed to create a navigation app for individuals with mobility issues that highlights accessible routes on Ithaca’s campus.

“We’ve worked with the physics department to plot data points that identify the slopes that are accessible on campus,” Shade said. “We want to put this into app form so that a user trying to get across campus can find the route that’s best for them.”

Shade mentioned that since the group has no prior experience in coding, they entered the codeathon to can find people with experience in computer science and information technology to help bring their vision to life. A pair of students, Dylan Shane ’19 and Mark Volkov ’21, worked on their project.

As the first–place winners, Hay’s group will present their app and share their experience during the college’s Educational Technology Day in March 2019.

Reflecting on their experience, Hay was proud that all of the hard work that his group put into their program paid off. “Working on the codeathon was great,” he said. “I was particularly glad we were able to execute our idea given the time constraints.”