'Reconnect' wins hackathon

A web platform that connects families after natural disasters won the first-place prize in this year’s HackRice.

'Reconnect' wins hackathon

Photo credit Daniel Davis: from left to right, Vincent Ly, Siyu Zhu, Claire Wang and Yidi Yang.

Reconnect, a web platform that connects families after natural disasters, won the first-place prize in this year’s HackRice 8 Hackathon.

The competition among 350 experienced and novice hackers, took place September 14-16 at the Rice Memorial Center at Rice University.

Reconnect was designed by Siyu Zhu (MCS ’19), Yidi Yang (MCS ’19), Claire Wang (MTEC ‘22) and Vincent Ly (University of Houston). Reconnect bridges the gap between first responders and families looking for loved ones.

“First responders upload images and general information about disaster victims,” Yang said. “The family member searches for their loved one by uploading photos of the person. Our facial-recognition system returns the top ten best profiles, and the user selects the correct match,” she said.

“This was my very first Hackathon” Wang said. “It was an incredible experience and I'm extremely grateful to my wonderful team members. I learned a lot from them throughout the weekend. It was amazing to see our work come to life, from proposing the idea to demonstrating the project on stage. I hope to continue working on this project so that it can make a real impact one day,” she said.

Zhu said Reconnect will impact society.

“I think our project is very meaningful to the welfare of society,” he said. “I appreciate the great opportunity to engage in a project where the technology we learned can be applied,” Zhu said.

Waseem Ahmad (CS ’14), a software engineer at Facebook, attended the event as a sponsor. He knows both sides of the coin: Ahmad organized the first HackRice event in 2012.

“The first HackRice was in the McMurtry Commons and only had 50 participants with a fraction of the budget,” Ahmad said. “Every participant knew someone already, so the event was very intimate. Organizing it was much easier. The organizing team had just about 5 people,” he said.

Ahmad said he is happy to see the lasting legacy of HackRice.

“HackRice 8 has the characteristics of a well-established event with a much larger organizing team behind it. There are special tracks which didn't exist in the earlier events. One of the tracks is aimed towards first-time hackers, who are usually freshmen. I really like that,” he said.

Shashank Mahesh (CS ‘20), co-director of HackRice 8, hopes each participant had a good experience.

“I want every hacker to learn something from this event, regardless if they completed a project,” Mahesh said. “I hope every person learned something important and meaningful. You don’t have to have something physical to show in order to have a meaningful experience,” he said.

Avanthika Mahendrababu (CS ’20), also a HackRice co-director, was excited about the multiple uses of the technology created at the event.

“It has been great to get everyone here in one space, passionate about technology. Seeing how technology is applied in different fields is something unique that HackRice provides. We’re excited about technology,” she said.

HackRice winners: First place, Reconnect by Vincent Ly, Yidi Yang, Siyu Zhu and Claire Wang; Second place, Not Soy Sure by Spencer Gellerup and Brayden Cloud; Third Place Eat Rice Bot by Nickolas Chen, Prashanth Pai, Jacob Lu, Wenqing Wu.

Cintia Listenbee, Communications and Marketing Specialist in Computer Science