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Spaceships and Laundry

What do a 3D space game, an English-Morse code translation app and an app that monitors the machines in a dormitory laundry have in common? They were all among the award-winning entries created in a single night of furious work during the 10th Semi-annual 5C Hackathon, held at Pomona in November.

Billed as a collaborative night filled with “awesome swag, food and mentorship,” the fall 2016 Hackathon covered a span of 12 hours, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. the following day, during which student competitors worked in groups to come up with novel ideas and put them into action.

Ziqi Xiong ’17, a member of the seven-person team that created Laundry Master, which took second place in the advanced group, said the original idea for an app to let users know when laundry machines were available came from the group’s only first-year student, Sophia Richards ’20. “We found it very cool because it would involve both hardware and software,” says Xiong. Kent Shikama ’18, another member of the team, said he enjoyed the process of “thinking of ways to overcome constraints and executing them.” He cited three memorable hours in the laundry room of Walker Hall, experimenting with an empty dryer and a seismic sensor.

Unlike Xiong and Shikama, two good friends and fellow computer science majors who had partnered in several previous Hackathons, Sonia Grunwald ’18 and Peter Cowal ’19, who took top honors for best design, had never worked together before. “Two days or so before the event I was standing around in the CS lab complaining that I really wanted to do Hackathon and make some simple game with the 3D models I design for fun,” Grunwald said. “Peter happened to be working in the room and heard me. He said that sounded like a fun idea.” The two-person team was formed, and the result was their winning 3D space game, titled “Tiny Forever.”

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