CMU-Q Hackathon Participants Race to Develop App in 24 Hours


Photos by Wajeeha Malik and Omaima Es-samaali

Students involved in computer programming or software development often work for weeks on mobile or web applications. But Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar recently upped the ante by asking participants in the business school’s Hackathon to create an app under one roof in 24 hours.

Hackathon 2014, held from January 24-25, is a programming and software development competition in which students compete to build “the coolest” app in a day.

“There were some pretty good ideas which I really want to come to life,” said Khalifa Haroon, Head of Innovation at Vodafone and one of the judges for Hackathon 2014. “Our goal here is to encourage application development in Qatar.”

A total of 45 students participated this year, including students from Qatar University, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), Al-Jazeera Academy and Newton International School.

Though many universities across the world organize Hackathons, the idea of having Hackathon in Qatar came to Doha last year when students from CMU-Q attended the event at their main campus in Pittsburgh. This is the second time CMU-Q has hosted Hackathon in Qatar.

“The purpose is to establish hacker culture in Qatar,” said Abdullah Zafar, a Computer Science junior at CMU-Q and one of the organizers of Hackathon. “There are people here excited about software and hardware development, so the event’s a platform for them to come together.”

Though the participants were not prevented from leaving the CMU-Q building, each team was assigned a room where they could work for 24 hours. Mentors who were expert in the field of computer and software development provided guidance to the teams.

“The best experience was learning that whatever we plan does not happen exactly that way,” said Farjana Salahuddin, an Information System freshman at CMU-Q. “The ideas and their implementation are different, and we got to learn that through Hackathon mentors.”

Salahuddin, along with her other team members Hira Yasin and Saaeda Muaza, both freshmen at CMU-Q, won the Best Overall App and were each awarded an iPhone 5C. Other winning categories included Best Rookie, won by a combined team of high school students from Al-Jazeera Academy and Newton International School; Best Design, won by CMU-Q students and Best Technical Challenge, won by a combined team of QU and CMU-Q students.

All teams had to give a presentation explaining their software, after which the judges decided the winners. Besides Haroon, the judging panel included Alaa Ajweh, Delivery Service Manager at Microsoft; and the Hackathon mentors. The prizes were announced at the awards ceremony that was attended by Ilker Baybars and Mark Stehlik, Dean and Associate Dean of CMU-Q, respectively.

“At Hackathon, you are not limited to a certain idea,” said Nazar Salim, a computer science senior at QU. “The sky is the limit for your idea and then you have to (create it) in 24 hours.”


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