ECE students innovate at QHacks

Posted on February 06, 2017

About 400 students from various universities gathered in Ellis Hall this past weekend for the second annual QHacks hackathon. It’s a three-day rapid-prototyping exercise in which students work around the clock in small teams to conceptualize, design, and build useful software applications. As well as being a lot of fun, it’s a strong learning opportunity that, by nature of the event, puts an emphasis on innovation. Creativity is key.

“People having mental health issues in the moment my not have immediate access to therapy,” says QHacks participant and ECE student Alexadre Granzer-Guay. “We’re developing a web app to help connect people who have similar mental health issues – could be depression, could be eating disorders – so they can have immediate peer-to-peer support. The application can also collect real-time patient information and forward it by email to their therapist to help with treatment.”

Granzer-Guay teamed-up for QHacks with fellow ECE students Alex Seppala, Nicolas Merz, and Dimitri Liu. They spent the first hours of the weekend exploring some of the resources available from event sponsors. They were impressed with the analytical capabilities of Indico’s machine-learning API and inspired by a challenge session on mental health.

“The most important first steps in our project were to identify a problem and a plausible explanation about why it still persists,” says Liu. “Someone facing a mental health crisis might need somebody right there in the moment and our approach to that problem currently doesn’t seem to exist.”

“We’re doing a productivity-based Chrome extension,” says ECE student Angus Short. “It tracks how much time you spend on certain websites. So, say you spend two or three hours working and think you’re doing a good job but, when you check our Chrome extension, you may find that you’ve spent an hour and a half of that time on facebook. You can tell if you’re really putting your time to good use.”

Short teamed-up with fellow ECE students Troy Wolters and Kenneth Chan on their project.

“We came to this each with our own ideas,” says Wolters. “At the beginning we put them all into a document and weighed the different pros and cons. We did a bit more research on top of that and ended up coming up with this.”

The consensus among participants seems to be that QHacks is a fun, interesting, and constructive way to spend a weekend. That this year’s installment is almost double the size of last year’s, seems a good indicator of that. To those considering signing up next year, says Short:

“I would say just give it a shot. You never know until you try. It’s really fun.”

Kenneth Chan, Troy Wolters, and Angus Short

PRODUCTIVITY KEY: ECE students Kenneth Chan, Troy Wolters, and Angus Short used the QHacks weekend to build a Chrome extension to help people better manage their time online. “The project isn’t something you’d normally do in a class,” says Short. “It’s an entire development cycle in a weekend.”

Alex Seppala, Dimitri Liu, Alexadre Granzer-Guay, and Nicolas Merz

INSTANT SUPPORT NETWORK: Alex Seppala, Dimitri Liu, Alexadre Granzer-Guay, and Nicolas Merz used the QHacks weekend to develop a web app to help instantly connect people dealing with similar mental health issues.