Penn State

HackPSU brings students and innovation together

Penn State senior Andy Luo, of State College, solders wires for his group’s wristband during HackPSU on Sunday at the Business Building on Penn State’s campus.
Penn State senior Andy Luo, of State College, solders wires for his group’s wristband during HackPSU on Sunday at the Business Building on Penn State’s campus. knetzer@centredaily.com

An idea is a fragile thing. With the proper support, an idea can revolutionize an industry.

With no support, an idea dies and does no good to anyone.

Enter HackPSU, a 24-hour event hosted at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business and aimed at students seeking to bring their ideas to life. About 500 students gathered Saturday into Sunday to collaborate and create through the assistance of their peers and about two dozen corporate sponsors.

A lot of times, you’ll have a student come up with an idea, and they don’t do anything with it. But HackPSU gives these students the opportunity to act on those ideas and make them into a reality.

HackPSU Co-director and Penn State sophomore Smith Sopp

“A lot of times, you’ll have a student come up with an idea, and they don’t do anything with it,” HackPSU Co-director and Penn State sophomore Smith Sopp said. “But HackPSU gives these students the opportunity to act on those ideas and make them into a reality.”

Last weekend marked the fourth HackPSU at the university, Sopp said, and it continues to grow. Students ranging from freshmen to graduate students were encouraged to work in groups — but could also fly solo — in developing both virtual and physical creations.

The event was organized by Innoblue Entrepreneurship with support from IST Startup Week, Penn State EdTech Network, College of Engineering and College of Information Sciences and Technology, according to Penn State, and featured several workshops including introduction to Java, programming and virtual-reality development.

The base requirement for anyone participating, Sopp said, was a desire to learn. The ultimate goal of the event was to get people collaborating and learning new things.

“We have a lot of workshops,” he said, “so we really push for people trying something new and not being afraid to step outside the boundaries a little bit.”

By Sunday afternoon, groups could be found throughout the lower part of the Business Building putting their final touches on programs and projects with tools and laptops.

Freshman Andy Luo sat hunched over a computer chip, soldering wires that stuck out in every direction. The chip, said fellow freshman Eric Pauley, was the key to delivering real-time information in their project.

Pauley and Luo, along with juniors Rebecca Arenson and Justin Keenan, were assembling a smart wristband to be worn by hospital outpatients that would stream real-time vital signs to the cloud that a doctor could retrieve at a hospital

“One of the biggest expenses is keeping people in hospitals for monitoring,” Pauley said. “We’re trying to create a device that would allow patients to leave, but the doctor could keep track by having instant access to vitals as if you were there.”

Pauley said he and Luo wanted to create a small device that showed off the power of the chip, which has its own Wi-Fi module. After deciding on a creating a wristband, they started looking into the practical applications of such a device.

Arenson said her mother is a physician and told her the heart rate of cardio patients must be closely monitored, especially when it comes to medication. The wristband would allow a doctor to change a patient’s medications without needed the patient to come to the hospital and could also alert the patient when to take the medicine.

Prizes were awarded to different groups, including corporate-sponsored prizes that focused on a particular need in an industry.

Vantiv IT Director and event keynote speaker Shawn McCarthy explained that Vantiv was awarding its own prize to any group that sought to educate a consumer or solve a payment issue. Those in the running included one group developing an app that would close a bar tab if the owner forgot to pay before leaving.

While this was the first time Vantiv had participated in HackPSU, McCarthy said he was excited about the opportunities that could come out of an events like it.

Imagine a world where you have (virtual reality) goggles on in your house, and you want to order a couch from Ikea. You can see what the couch looks like in your house, make sure it fits, then order it to be delivered.

Vantiv IT Director and HackPSU keynote speaker Shawn McCarthy

“Imagine a world where you have (virtual reality) goggles on in your house, and you want to order a couch from Ikea,” he said. “You can see what the couch looks like in your house, make sure it fits, then order it to be delivered.”

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews

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