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Over the weekend, I had the privilege of judging the first annual TriCoHackathon @ Haverford College.  This was the first Hackathon focused on innovation in the colleges of the Main Line of Philadelphia, where ModSolar has its home office in Ardmore, PA.  The colleges of the "TriCo" are Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swartmore.  In order to help foster innovation, I decided to get involved, have ModSolar sponsor the event along with other area technology business.  The goal for the business community supporting this was to help the students of these top-notch colleges to recognize they need not leave Philly for NYC, Silicon Valley, etc., to pursue their technological passions.  And of course, to maybe do a little recruiting fro our own software development staffs.

When we were initially planning the event, due to the small size of these student populations, we figured we'd have 25, maybe 30 students participate.  In total, there were more than 70 students participating in a total 13 teams - wildly beyond our expectations.   The students were hungry for the opportunity to show their technological chops, and many of the projects were solving problems that the students had been thinking about for some time, or that were consistent problems with existing systems for the colleges they attend.

The 13 teams that presented were really amazing, and while some were further along than others in thinking through their idea, how it becomes a product, what the business model is, but overall the judges were very impressed.  Here's a quick summary of the top 3 projects:

TriLinGo (1st Place)

A very cool mobile translation/language learning app.  Imagine you're in the heart of Beijing, Buenos Aires, or Paris, and you want to get some lunch.  But you don't know how to say "food" or "restaurant," or "I'm and american and I just want a hamburger - where's the nearest McDonalds!?!"   Well, with TriLinGo, as you walk down the street, the app uses your location, along with location data and a language database, to show you pictures of what's around you, and the types of things you can get in each location.  It will save a list of words for you.  Think of it as Rosetta Stone, but with your location serving as the way to prompt you what to learn.  Seems like your retention of those words will be easier because you'll have a place with which to associated them.

WatchOut (2nd Place)

The only app presented made specifically for Android watches.  Here the scenario is you're walking home late from the campus Library, and suddenly you hear quickening footsteps behind you. No, this isn't a reprint of a Doyle novel, and our hero isn't Holmes.  Instead, you're maybe in real danger. Well, with a tap-tap-tap of your android phone, it will send a signal to your contacts alerting them that you might be in danger.  To me, the value here is that the team harnessed an application which doesn't work as well on your mobile phone, since, if you are truly in danger, every millisecond counts.  Your friend on the other end receives a text message with a link to a map page on their phone where they can see you.  I thought this concept was very cutting edge, but still needed some refinement.  Specifically, wouldn't it be great to alert local law enforcement, as well as your friends?

IOU (3rd Place)

Evidently, college students today borrow money from each other a lot, so much so it can be hard to keep track of it all.  So this IOU app keeps tracks of who owes you money or who you owe money to.  It gives you the ability to send text messages and remind them when they fail to pay.  These reminders come in three progressive levels: "Annoy," "Pester," and "WTFIMM!?!" (which stands for "Where The F*** IS My Money").  Of course, this app has not only a negative connotation, but a positive one, the team is planning on expanding it to keep track of favors, or chores, or thank-you's.  Seems like a great way to keep track of all of those things you are waiting for someone to get back to you on!

Like I said, Lots of good stuff.  See the full list of teams and their related projects here! I wish I was this smart in college!

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