We’re counting down the days until classes start with Summer Snapshots from students around the country—and the world! Want to share what you did this summer? Contact Social Media Editor Jenna Kingsley at jdkings@emory.edu and we might feature you on our Facebook page. This list will be updated daily, so keep checking back for more snapshots!

Aug. 13, 2014— 14 days until classes begin

day 14

We’ve hit the two-week mark; only 14 more days of freedom! Today’s Summer Snapshot is from Anusha Ravi, whose spring Study Abroad trip in Cape Town, South Africa carried into the summer months: “One of my favorite trips of the semester was along South Africa’s Garden Route, which is basically a road trip across different little towns and tourist attractions throughout the country. We made a lot of stops along the way, including one at a Rastafarian community, Bloukans Bridge (the highest bungee jump in the world), and Knysna Elephant Park, where this photo was taken. Knysna is a captive elephant sanctuary and research center which houses many elephants from all across Africa. This elephant, Sally, is the big mama and matriarch of the group! It was a truly amazing moment to see such an enormous yet peaceful creature.”

Aug. 12, 2014— 15 days until classes begin

15 days

15 days left of summer! Today’s Summer Snapshot comes from Washington, D.C., where we see College senior Hannah Finnie (circled) casually standing behind (from left to right) U.S. Senators Dick Durbin, Mark Udall, Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren: “This summer I pondered life’s existential questions, like “Why do I spend two hours a week watching the bachelorette?” and “Is non-partisan redistricting a better option than partisan redistricting?” while interning at the Center for American Progress, a think tank in Washington, D.C. In the end, I decided that it’s because I strongly support strong, female role models who leave their jobs as lawyers to find love (in a hopeless place) and that non-partisan redistricting is in fact a better alternative to partisan redistricting. Then I wrote a report on it (non-partisan redistricting, that is). I also lost my wallet in the East Room of the White House.” Photo courtesy of U.S. Senate Democrats’s Flickr page.

Aug. 11, 2014— 16 days until classes begin

16 days

16 days until classes begin! Today’s Summer Snapshot is from College sophomore Rifat Mursalin in Antwerp, Belgium: “Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta once said, ‘Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.’ This summer, I’ve gotten closer to understanding what this really means. After completing my French study abroad program in Paris, I embarked on a journey across Europe for eight weeks. For these weeks, I traveled without a set itinerary or any schedule. Now, nearing the end of my journey, I have been to over 50 cities—some were the largest in the world, and others were remote towns—in 10 countries. Throughout my journey, I’ve met like-minded people from every corner of the world, including some ATLiens in Florence, Italy. This summer has been filled with incredibly exciting adventures every single day. Thanks to Emory for its study abroad opportunities, because if it wasn’t for that, I probably wouldn’t have come abroad in the first place!”

Aug. 10, 2014— 17 days until classes begin

17 days

We’ve only got 17 days left of summer! Today’s Summer Snapshot is from College sophomore Rasika Tangutoori in Seville, Spain: “Studying abroad in Spain this summer was an experience I will cherish forever. It is incredible how I’ve learned so much about the Spanish language and culture in six short weeks. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have studied at one of the oldest universities in the world, to have been continuously stunned by the beauty of the monuments and landscapes, to have been warmly welcomed into the households of my host families and to have had the experience with an amazing group of students and professors at Emory Univerisity.”

With Dooley’s Week behind us, finals season now descends upon the Emory student body like the veil of unwelcomed neon-colored pollen perpetually descending upon the hood of my car. As I begin to procrastinate studying, I reminisce of the many manifestos that I published this semester and question why I decided to begin this bi-weekly “manifesto” publication in the first place. While my articles were almost entirely written in the first person, my initial goal, as stated in “The Farmer’s Market Manifesto,” was to publish a declaration of intentions (and suggestions) that if acted upon, would allow any Emory student to seek out and live their Emory experiences to the fullest potential. However, only in reflection did I recognize what my true goal of these manifestos was: I wanted to make you, the reader, cognizant of the fact that your Emory identity makes you unique. With an overbearing workload and endless extracurricular involvement, it becomes easy to overlook how lucky we are to be in attendance at Emory University. That being said, always remember that you are unique because you are an Emory student. Your Emory experience is unlike any other college experience, and I encourage you to make your own manifesto, a bucket list, or a way to commemorate the culture of this university and live your Emory experience to the fullest potential.

With that said and done, I am ready to deliver to you The Final(s) Manifesto. Around this time of year, Woodruff Library tends to reach maximum capacity, as the student body makes their pilgrimage to occupy every available seat from the ground floor to stacks 7. However, what students might not realize is that there are many alternative study spots around campus besides the university library. For this reason, I have published not a manifesto, but a list of some notable locations to study around campus excluding the university library and the Matheson Reading Room.

1. Located behind the spiral staircase entrance to the DUC is Eagle’s Landing, one of the most underrated and underutilized study locations on campus. Grab an ice coffee from Dunkin Donuts and post up at one of the many tables offered in Eagle’s Landing with some study buddies. The atmosphere quiets down the minute that the DUC closes. If you can withstand the noise until then, this location is the ideal study spot. Just remember that it closes at 12 a.m.

2. Did you know that the Michael C. Carlos Museum is the largest southeastern university museum in the United States? More importantly, did you know that there is quiet (but limited) study space located directly in front of the no longer operating Café Antico? Calm your nerves by surrounding yourself with some world history before you begin tackling your studies in this hot study spot.

3. Pitts Theology Library is the third largest theology library in the United States and one of the most magnificent libraries on campus. While Pitts only operates from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., this library is still a certainly desirable location to absorb some textbook knowledge or flesh out a lengthy paper during the daytime.

4. Cross the bridge away from Longstreet Means, and you will discover the hidden gem of study locations on campus: Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library (aka The Bio Library). Unknown to the majority of the university community, Woodruff Health Sciences Center Library contains an atmosphere similar to that of the Matheson Reading Room and offers 24-hour study hours during exam week beginning April 27.

5. Did you know that the classroom that you used to have that one class in during that specific time frame is no longer occupied (for the most part) during that time? Ebb on the side of caution, but chances are you can enter that classroom and work for hours on end with the right timing.

6. You can help stimulate the economy of the Starbucks in the Oxford Road Building by purchasing for favorite chilled coffee beverage, but don’t anticipate finding a seat during finals week. That being said, most students tend to overlook the Starbucks located in Emory Village, a mere stroll down the street from the on campus Starbucks. Grab yourself a Frappuccino and knock out that 10-page paper on that one subject you plan on teaching yourself the night before the paper is due.

7. Your bedroom is one of the best places to study on campus. Work at your desk. Write in your bed. Read on your floor. Negotiate some study time in your room with your roommate in order to capitalize on your personal territory in order to mix work with relaxation.

Live your Emory experience to its fullest potential by taking advantage of these study locations on campus. Take some deep breaths, and don’t forget to take some study breaks. You are going to do just fine.

—By Casey Horowitz

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Activision

horoscopes stock photoThe “My Impending Future Is Now Seeming All Too Real And I’m Not Ready” Edition

Aries Your four years at Emory are drawing to a close. This makes you both happy and sad. How original! You’ve expressed your originality on social media by updating your Facebook status about your “last college class.” Get the likes when you can; graduation is a Facebook-like jackpot.

Taurus  Congratulations! You’ve just accepted a job, and it’s somewhere new and exciting. Somewhere with lots of Republicans. Somewhere that allegedly has amazing BBQ. Somewhere that might even want to secede from the United States. Somewhere like… Texas! Enjoy your time in your new city with your impressive new job. You deserve it.

Gemini  You’re confused. You just don’t know what to do. Gap year? Job? Med school? The stars don’t have any advice for you, though. They’re just stars. And they think you should have figured this out in advance. So it’s sort of on you.

Cancer  You’re not sure how you’ll be able to keep in touch with your friends after graduation. Stop whining about it, though. You have so many options. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Vine. MSN Messenger. It’s up to you to maintain the relationships.

Leo  You have been feeling weird lately. It’s not about graduation, though. It’s, like, a throat thing. Not quite sore, but not quite itchy. And cough drops aren’t helping. Text your parent or legal guardian. They always know what to do about throat things.

Virgo  You have a big decision to make, and your deadline is looming. It’s really stressing you out, and it should: your choice is something that will affect you for the rest of your life. To throw a metaphor out at you, it’s almost like you’re a student choosing between a law school in Chicago and in New York. To make the metaphor even more frightening, you only have until April 30. What will you do? The stars have some sage advice for you: ~follow your heart.~

Libra  You’re going to Columbia to study journalism. I know that this sounds oddly specific, but it’s what the stars have in store. Congratulations on your accomplishments; you deserve all of your success. But don’t forget the little people when you get big.

Scorpio  You’re afraid of falling at graduation, and you should be. You’re pretty clumsy. Be careful.

Sagittarius  Don’t drink too much water before graduation. You’ll have to pee during an inopportune time.

Capricorn You might not have a job yet, but you do have a great new haircut. And that new haircut — it is everything. It completely changes your face. You look mature. You look sophisticated. You look sexy. And you’re definitely going to get that job. You know the one.

Aquarius  This is your week to shine, Aquarius. And shine you will. Take your final days at Emory to shine. Figure it out. Shine. Just shine.

Pisces Your heart is large and open this week, but don’t let yourself become vulnerable. Allow only your inner circle to experience your love, because outsiders could cause you pain.

This week’s stars interpreted by Jenna Kingsley.

Courtesy of Flickr/navid baraty   Bow ties can spice up outfits while maintaining the wearer’s  sophistication, as we see above with Bill Nye the Bow Tie Guy.

Courtesy of Flickr/navid baraty
Bow ties can spice up outfits while maintaining the wearer’s
sophistication, as we see above with Bill Nye the Bow Tie Guy.

From its origin as a battle emblem worn by Croatian mercenaries to its current day status as a signature accessory sported by celebrities like actor Idris Elba and fictional iconoclast Doctor Who, the bow tie has long symbolized debonair charm mixed with a subtle hint of “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” attitude.
Bow ties are a staple of any modern wardrobe, lending playfulness and an air of gentility to everything from the signature black tie look to the wacky patterns of the reversible bow tie.
How did this fresh, felicitous fabric end up draped around the necks of presidents, nerds and frat stars alike?
Following the Croatian mercenaries and their fashionable bloodlust, the French adopted the “Cravat,” as they called it, and it became a symbol of upper class fashion.
As style, materials and a shift away from aristocracy occurred, the modern evolution of the bow tie followed. Once relegated to fusty college professors, cheap magicians and certain “learned gentleman” such as doctors and lawyers, the bow tie has made resurgence among all walks of life.
TV producer and bow tie-wearer Rick Kaplan once offered the following assessment of the aura portrayed by those with a penchant for non-traditional neckwear: “Wearing a bow tie is a statement. Almost an act of defiance.”
Donning a bow tie bids the world of haute couture, style guides proscribing what’s ‘in’ or ‘out’ and expensive esotericism a hearty “Forget you,” as the bow tie characterizes the wearer as a statement maker and highly individual.
Whether on a date in Midtown or a Sunday stroll in Lullwater, nobody in their right mind will look at you wearing a bow tie and think “What on Earth are they wearing?” Instead, they see someone who is cool and confident in their individuality, refined and rambunctious, taking no shit from the world.
The beauty of wearing a bow tie today means that you do not have to raid your grandfather’s closet, digging between mothballs and denture cream to find a cool ‘retro’ tie to be edgy and sophisticated. You are just as likely to wade through your apartment of empty pizza boxes and Red Bull cans to find the same thing.
One thing needs to be clear: The bow tie is not an accessory added on to a certain look you are trying to achieve. It is the look. It is you.
As an owner of 18 bow ties that range in color from standard black to Emory tartan plaid, my bow ties are as much who I am as my hometown, my major or my inclination towards referring to everyone as y’all.
Each bow tie represents a story, a memory. A piece of the puzzle that is who I am as a person. Take, for example, my first bow tie: maroon (my high school’s color) with polka dots. Bought as part of an academic team uniform, that tie represented our team spirit. Our personality. When teams saw the slightly off-center dimpled bow across the room, they knew we meant business.
Before you shrug off the suggestion and say “bow ties aren’t for me,” take a look at the wide variety of personalities and looks of famous bow tie aficionados: Bill Nye. Karl Marx. Frank Sinatra. Winston Churchill. Dr. Who. Emory’s own Gary Hauk.
Hell, Budweiser, Chevrolet and Kentucky Fried Chicken all like bow ties so much they made them part of their logos.
Whether it is one or 100, everyone must do their civic duty and wear a bow tie at least once a year. Make a statement.
Why? In the words of the Doctor, “Bow ties are cool.”

—By Stephen Fowler

Courtesy of Michael Fier/Staff College junior Kaeya Majmundar is taking her invention BZbox to the next level: on May 16, she will be on ABC’s show Shark Tank.

Courtesy of Michael Fier/Staff
College junior Kaeya Majmundar is taking her invention BZbox to the next level: on May 16, she will be on
ABC’s show Shark Tank.


College junior Kaeya Majmundar started with a cardboard box, but now she’s transitioning to a shiny, black box: television.

On May 16 at 8 p.m., Majmundar will be featured on ABC’s season finale of the reality TV show, “Shark Tank,” which features business pitches from entrepreneurs to a panel of Sharks, or investors.

She’ll be presenting her invention, the BZbox. The BZbox is a cardboard box with a twist: it requires no assembly. To use the box, all one must do is pop open the box.

Majmundar is currently negotiating potential licensing deals with different companies to sell the BZbox.
Unlike most entrepreneurs on “Shark Tank,” Majmundar applied to be on the show during the early stages of developing her product.

“A lot of ‘Shark Tank’ entrepreneurs have at least a couple years of validation,” Majmundar said. “They have customers, are in stores or at least are selling online and are looking to take it to the next level. I, on the other hand, was filing the patent and prototyping simultaneously as I was moving through the stages of getting on the show.”

Majmundar got the idea to apply to be on the show in May 2012 when she was first fiddling around with collapsible box design ideas.

Her father suggested she watch the show; after the first episode, she was hooked.

“I blew through all the seasons of the show by the end of the summer,” she said. “I kept a notebook full of lessons and pitch strategies.”

Those notes helped hone her pitch for the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organizations National Elevator Pitch competition in November 2012, which she won. After her win, she decided to apply to be on “Shark Tank.” In March 2013, she got a call from California to complete more application papers.

When the season started, she received calls from family and friends who saw her in commercials for the show, but she was still uncertain whether “Shark Tank” would show her pitch.

“It was very long, nerve wracking and completely surreal,” Majmundar said. “The producers make it very clear that there is no guarantee anyone airs basically until you see yourself on TV.”

But just this past week, she got a call with good news: her episode had been scheduled to air.

“The odds are just so surreal to me and I still cannot believe I made it all the way,” Majmundar said.

The road hasn’t been easy — finding a balance between entrepreneurship and school has proven to be a challenge.

“Admittedly, it took a lot of blind faith on my part for me to believe so much in my product to the point where I occasionally had to put BZbox over academics,” she said.

However, she ultimately believes that the BZbox is headed in right direction for the future.

“When I come up with ideas, my mind just explodes with excitement,” she said. “I am really glad I finally found what I am passionate about. I think that will shine through on the episode.”

—By Elizabeth Howell

Updated on May 13, 2014 at 3:06 p.m.: This article has been updated to match the print version of the story run on April 25, 2014. The previous version of the article stated that Majmundar was approached in May 2013 to come to California, and has been changed to state that in May 2013, Majmundar received a call asking her to participate further in the application process. The print version of the article is correct.

Updated on May 16, 2014 at 6:00 p.m.: This article has been updated to include the special air time (8 p.m.) of the episode as the season finale.


courtesy of irina lucaciu Assistant Student Life editor and IDX model Loli Lucaciu strikes a pose in clothing from the Daesha Vu collection.

courtesy of irina lucaciu
Assistant Student Life editor and IDX model Loli Lucaciu strikes a pose in clothing from the Daesha Vu collection.

Last Saturday, the Identities Xposed (IDX) Fashion Show, an event featuring the sartorial creations of up-and-coming designers that were sported by Atlanta-area and Emory University models, was hosted in the Math and Science building. The IDX show’s main producer was College senior La-Quan X. Bates — Creative Director and owner of LXB The Style Coach, a style consulting service dedicated to enhancing the images of men. Our Assistant Student Life editor, Loli Lucaciu, recounts the experience of being one of the show’s models.

“We are in this together. Identities Xposed on three!” Countless hands unite. A few seconds later they all simultaneously blow up in the air with an energy fed by excitement. The dynamic whirlwind of moving Barbies and Kens and the busy-bee-ing of designers and team members is hidden by dark drapes from the eyes of the spectators. The IDX Fashion Show has been in the works for months and this journey would reach its zenith tonight.

“Q.U.E.E.N.” by Janelle Monae starts playing. I don’t know about others, but personally, I’m ready to get this party started. The models line up, and to my satisfaction, our line is boogying it up to the rhythm of the song. Following the show, this song would be one of the group’s hymns. Taking a closer look to the line, I see the girls with their smokey, batting fake eyelashes and sophisticated hair concoctions. We all look fairly glamorous, and the general mood is of enjoyment during these Cinderella-like moments. We take pictures (many!) and laugh and talk and be merry. We then, one by one, step into the limelight and showcase the creations of the talented designers and makeup and hair artists who so meticulously put together our looks.

The runway was the place to be, but to get up there, we had to pass by the obstacle of the three killer steps. Always slightly crooked and shaky, they were the testing blocks to our success as models. However, by the end of the show, not a single one of us fell victim to this initial hardship. Up there on the platform, it was pure bliss. I revelled in the rush of the moment, forgetting the people watching, the tight clothes and the high heels… struggling not to walk on the beat, that killer beat … Back behind the scenes, the models sincerely high-fived each other.

The thing is, not only the external part of this show was beautiful. Yes, there was much work put behind every little detail, from the glamorous “LXB The Style Coach” logo projected on the wall and each individual piece of clothing, to the professional lighting and the elegant gentleman helping the models off the runway. All the alluring external pleasantries were, however, the result of the passion and the joy that the creative team, the designers and the models put forth. While all of us involved in the show knew about individual aspects of the show, it was quite a shock to see everything come together to form this grand-looking venue.

La-Quan X. Bates, the mastermind behind the IDX event, received a standing ovation, and it was understandable: his dedication and work were of creative and managerial genius, and all of us involved in the show feel gratitude for working with such an inspirational person. The backstage team-shout at the beginning of the show became, by the end, one enormous group hug whose center, both literally and metaphorically, was La-Quan.

This year’s IDX Fashion Show was the first such creative attempt at Emory, and it certainly set a high bar for future Emory fashion shows. Promoting creativity and diversity were the main themes, but the show also came with the wonderful perk of creating a community.  At the end of the day, all of us in IDX were in it together.”

—By Loli Lucaciu

Courtesy of Chris Diglio B-school sophomores and Beta Theta Pi (Beta) brothers Chris Diglio (left) and Griffin Sears (right) placed collection boxes in residence halls, fraternity houses and sorority lodges for Beta’s first annual Move Out Clothing Drive.

Courtesy of Chris Diglio
B-school sophomores and Beta Theta Pi (Beta) brothers Chris Diglio (left) and Griffin Sears (right) placed collection boxes in residence halls, fraternity houses and sorority lodges for Beta’s first annual Move Out Clothing Drive.


Emory fraternity Beta Theta Pi (Beta) will be hosting their first annual Move Out Clothing Drive this week. The drive, which aims to collect students’ unwanted or unused clothing at the end of the year, will continue until May 1. All clothes will be donated to Charity Clothing Pickup (CCP), a local branch of a national organization that benefits local charities.

Each on-campus residence hall as well as each participating fraternities and sororities will receive labeled boxes in which residents can donate any washed clothing that they no longer want. Beta hopes to expand the drive to Clairmont campus next year if the event is successful.

Beta brothers will be collecting the boxes on May 1. On May 2, CCP will come to campus and collect the donations.

The idea for the drive came from B-school sophomore and Beta Interfraternity Council (IFC) representative Chris Diglio.

“I was busy folding laundry, and it suddenly hit me,” Diglio said. “I remembered the end of freshman year when I was sorting through old t-shirts and throwing out a bunch of clothing I didn’t need anymore. I thought, wow — we could definitely get a clothing drive together for the homeless or something, rather than just throwing all our old clothes out.”

Diglio has organized and overseen all aspects of the drive with the help of Beta treasurer and B-school sophomore Griffin Sears, who has aided with marketing and securing funding for the event.

“Typically, fraternity and sorority philanthropy events ask students to provide some sort of monetary donation to support their cause,” Sears said. “This event is unique as we only ask students to donate items which are unwanted by them in the first place.”

Diglio hopes that the timing of the drive will bring in a large amount of donations.

“Students get rid of their unwanted clothing, and people in need receive the proper aid,” he said. “Everyone wins.”

There’s also an added incentive for those who participate: the residence hall, fraternity or sorority with the largest donation will get their choice of either a dinner catered by Chipotle or a catered dessert by Yogli Mogli. The second place winner will receive the prize that the first place winners do not choose.

Prizes will be announced and awarded on May 2.

Diglio said he hopes the drive will engage students with charity work, even in a time when finals and term papers seem to be the most important thing on everyone’s mind.

“Sometimes we get so caught up in our social and academic lives that we forget that we have an obligation as people to help others in need,” he said. “I hope this drive reminds us that the Emory community can accomplish great things when we all band together.”

—By Jenna Kingsley

horoscopes stock photo

Shiny stars bring shaky wishes. Wishes only do come true, if the stars will befriend you. Give the stars a chance to work, and out of happiness you’ll twerk.



Pluto is entering retrograde in your career zone, so now is not the time to make sudden changes. If you are feeling bored when it comes to work, try to gradually shift gears.



As Pluto enters retrograde, you will find a revitalized sense of adventure. Plan some trips, Taurus, because the summer is the perfect time to getaway.



You have always been mystified by life, and you are feeling a spiritual connection this week, especially. Spend some extra time outdoors to appreciate the blooming life of spring.



You may have a hard time making commitments this week, Cancer. Whether it is in relationships or work, do not fear making a long-term journey if it feels right.



You have been feeling physically “off” lately, but as summer is approaching, now is the time to make changes. Start a new exercise regime or focus on nutrition because your physical fitness is ready to improve.



Avoid interacting with superficial people this week, Virgo. You should be focused on real connections and disingenuous people will only be a distraction to your goals.



This week is a time to meditate and have “me” time. Dedicate some of your free moments to reflection and appreciation. Avoid attending events to please friends because you will only resent them.



You run the risk of causing misunderstandings if you do not filter your words. Although your intentions are good, try to be gentle with your delivery of advice.



Opportunities are awaiting you this week, Sagittarius! A small search could lead to huge rewards, especially when it comes to a long-term goal you have lost faith in.



You have been too harsh on yourself lately, Capricorn. Reflect on your success and take down your defensive social posture.  Dissociate from those who make you question your own identity.



This week will be very introspective for you, Aquarius. Now may be a good time to forget who you think you are and redefine based on who you really are.



Your heart is large and open this week, but don’t let yourself become vulnerable. Allow only your inner circle to experience your love, because outsiders could cause you pain.

This week’s stars interpreted by Celia Greenlaw.


I may be a skeleton, but my allergies are so bad that they’ve transitioned with me into the afterlife. Here are some tips for pushing through allergy season … just in time for finals.

1. Find some local honey and eat one tablespoon per day. Although I believe in home remedies about as much as Neil Degrasse Tyson believes in creationism, this one may actually work. And if my metaphor holds true, this means Tyson has now transitioned from atheist to agnostic.

2. Start clapping your hands and stomping those feet: It’s time for a rain dance. Because, as we allergy-sufferers know, there’s nothing more beautiful than a day in peak-allergy season when the rain has washed all the pollen away. Except maybe not having allergies in the first place.

3. Shut the windows, barricade your door and lock yourself inside. There’s no better way to avoid the pollen than to literally avoid the pollen by staying indoors. Pass the time by starting to watch that show everyone watches that you feel like you just need to watch, or else you’ll have no friends. Hint: It’s probably “Game of Thrones.”

4. In a fit of angry rage, find the nearest flower or plant and destroy it, thereby showing it who’s boss. In reality, you’ll have just brought yourself closer to the devil that is pollen, but you might still feel better if you’re the vengeful type.

5. Claritin.

Photo by Jenna Kingsley College senior Christal Wang (left) and Georgia Institute of Technology sophomore Kush Patel (right) worked on   their app, PhotoSinc, Saturday night at the Emory Hackathon.

Photo by Jenna Kingsley
College senior Christal Wang (left) and Georgia Institute of Technology sophomore Kush Patel (right) worked on
their app, PhotoSinc, Saturday night at the Emory Hackathon.

It’s 11 p.m. in the Math and Science building’s biggest lecture hall. But instead of the silent, deserted place it is most Saturday nights, the room is alive with a quiet energy. Students working in hushed tones are scattered all about the giant space.

In the middle of the room, three young men type furiously on their keyboards, surrounded by a mountain of empty water bottles and Coke cans. In the front of the room, someone laughs as a fellow group member writes an equation on an already-crowded whiteboard. In the corner, a student bangs his hands on his laptop and consults his team with frustration.

“You see?” he says. “It works when I move my hand over the sensor. But on the monitor, it’s reverse! Did you see that?”

The focus, laughter and frustration all are directed at one event: Emory Hackathon 2014, a 32 hour competition to build an app, or hack, with a team and showcase the creation to win a multitude of prizes. This year’s hackathon was hosted throughout the Math and Science building from April 12 at 10 a.m. until April 13 at 5 p.m. The event was co-hosted by Microsoft, who offered over $5000 in prizes for skilled coders and beginners and boasted more than 200 in total attendance.

But what is a hackathon? And what is it that’s being hacked?

At events like Emory Hackathon, there’s no actual “hacking” in the mainstream sense of the word. The goal is never to hack into another account or get through the firewall of a government database. Rather, a hackathon is an event where computer programmers come together to work intensively on software products and programs. It’s a combination of the words “hack” and “marathon,” hence the need for computer prowess and coding stamina.

College hackathons started gaining popularity in the spring of 2009, when a hackathon at the University of Pennsylvania, PennApps, was born. Since then, hackathons have grown in quantity and attendance on campuses around the nation.

Many hackathons offer big prizes for the most innovative creations. PennApps has since grown to host over 2500 hackers and offer upwards of $30,000 in rewards. Emory Hackathon, only in its second year, cannot yet boast those types of numbers. But it is growing, and quickly.

Last year, Emory Hackathon was a small event with around 50 participants. This year, over 200 students participated. While some participants were Emory students, many came from neighboring schools like Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) or Georgia State University. Hackers came from five different states, and their education backgrounds ranged from high school to medical school.

“Hackathons are the biggest thing to happen to CS (computer science) in a long time,” College senior and lead organizer for the event Tom Mou said.

Mou, along with many others from the Emory Robotics and Computer Engineering Club, dedicated many months to planning this year’s event. The team spent much of their time obtaining sponsors, planning logistics and even hosted coding workshops for beginners in preparation for the competition.

Mou stressed the importance of gaining sponsors for events like this on campus.

“80 percent of our budget doesn’t come from Emory,” he said. “That’s why we turn to sponsors.”

Microsoft co-sponsored the event, in addition to other companies like Google, United Way, Uber, Zipcar, Wolfram, MailChimp, Mandril, Twilio and many others. The hackathon was also sponsored in part by Emory’s Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Department of Chemistry, Laney Graduate School, College Council and Robotics and Engineering Club.

Sponsors helped provide food, prizes and speakers at the event. The prizes ranged from a Microsoft Surface 2 tablet for each team member, $500 in cash and one year WolframAlpha Pro/Mathematica passes for the Grand Prize winner to Startup Chowdown tickets at Atlanta Tech Village for the best startup-friendly hack. The best novice team received a $250 team cash prize and 6 month Code School passes.

With prizes for novice teams and support available from experienced hackers, the event was open to all skill levels.

“It’s really all about learning,” Mou said. “We wanted to focus on that aspect, not the prizes. We’re doing this for the Atlanta community.”

The Atlanta community came out bright and early. Check-in started at 8:30 a.m., followed by a kickoff ceremony, tech talks and then lunch, which served as a meet and greet for the participants. Then, things got quiet and the hacking commenced.

Food kept many hackers going throughout the event. Participants ploughed through five meals, 12 pounds of ground coffee, 150 bottles of Starbucks iced coffee and, of course, pieces upon pieces of pizza.

“It’s not a hackathon without midnight pizza,” Mou laughed.

Just before the midnight pizza, work began getting more intense all over the Math and Science building. Each team, consisting of a maximum of four members, only had 32 hours to complete their hacks. While some Emory students decided to go back to their rooms for the night, many of the hackers worked into the early hours of the morning, taking turns napping in various designated sections in the building.

While teams were scattered across different rooms, the hub seemed to be room 208, the giant lecture hall. The room was quiet, but there seemed to be a charge to the air, like a sort of silent frenzy.

“It’s usually even crazier than this,” College senior Christal Wang said. “I think some people went back to their dorms.”

Wang was on a team with her brother, Christopher Wang, and her brother’s friend, Kush Patel, both sophomores at Georgia Tech. Christal and Patel, both novices, teamed up with Christopher, an experienced programmer, for the weekend.

“We’re just here to learn,” Christal said, shaking her head with a smile. “This is Christopher’s thing. This is what he does on the weekends.”

The trio’s app, named PhotoSinc, was a picture service that took photos from a phone, uploaded and tagged them on the cloud, and then sent them individually to the tagged person. Essentially, the app allows people to share photos but bypasses social media.

“It grew out of being more private,” Patel said. “Chris and I aren’t fans of public social media.”

Another team, consisting of Trevor Goodyear, Gene Chorba, William Wood and Gabriel Siewe, all CS majors from Georgia State University, created an app called Shelter, which provides a portal for homeless shelters to maintain databases of the homeless with pictures and information related to each individual.

Though they are both experienced coders, it was Goodyear and Siewe’s first hackathon.

“We tried to ask to be in the novice category,” Goodyear joked.

“They said no,” Chorba said with a grin.

It ended up only being fair; Shelter won three prizes at the event, including Second Place overall, the United Way Hack for the Homeless Prize for the best hack that addressed an issue regarding homelessness and Best Use of Twilio application programming interface (API).

The grand prize went to College senior Neil Sethi and his team members Angie Palm, Brendan Isham and Shivani Negi, all students at Georgia Tech. Their hack, called Musiqu.es, was a sound sampling web application that allows users to act as a DJ on the go.

Third place went to Parachute, an app that delivers ice cream directly to the consumer by quadricopter. The creators, all Georgia Tech students, are now talking to King of Pops about the opportunity to deliver popsicles to customers by dropping them in tiny parachutes.

The high school team from Milton, Georgia took home the top new hacker prize.

All hacks were due at 3 p.m., when each team was given three minutes to demo their app to the judges. Then, judges deliberated and awarded prizes at the closing ceremony. Closing ceremony speakers included Protip Biswas, vice president of homelessness at United Way of Atlanta, Devin Rader, developer evangelist at Twilio and Brian Easter, CEO of Nebo Agency.

“Overall, the event was overwhelmingly successful,” Mou said. “We had people who knew nothing about coding make fully functional apps after learning basic platforms. The group of medical school students from Emory created a text-alert system that automatically alerts the authority in the event of a serious collision between bikes, motorcycles or cars. And yes, they knew nothing about coding before this.”

But learning wasn’t the only thing happening at the event; participants also made sure to make time to have some fun.

“Microsoft came out with a 3D printer for the first time and made stuff for people for free,” Mou said. “They also brought out 2 Xbox Ones.”

However, despite all of Hackathon’s success, Mou believes there is still room for improvement. He hopes that each year’s success will build upon the next. The only place to go, it seems, is up.

“We are already starting to work on next spring’s edition of the event, which will be much bigger,” he said. “More prizes, more participants, bigger venue.  And bringing in people from across the South to make it the biggest hackathon for the South by the South.”

— By Jenna Kingsley

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