ECEi QHacks team earns top honours

Posted on March 22, 2017

By Victoria Drysdale

QHacks first place team
ECEi students Eric Leask, Vasa Shpatrov and Isabela Dominguez show off their QHacks first place project, the Accele-maze.

Three first year ECE Innovation Stream students, Vasa Shpatrov, Isabela Dominguez, and Eric Leask took first prize at QHacks for their Accele-maze. QHacks is a 36-hour hackathon that brought top students from all over Ontario to Queen’s University Feb 3-5. Projects were judged on three criteria: creativity, technical difficulty, and polish.

The Accele-maze is a game that allows the player to control the movement of a ball through a virtual maze, the goal being to find all the balls hidden throughout. The hardware part of the game architecture consists of an accelerometer module that communicates with an Arduino to interpret where the player’s device is pointing in space.

That data is sent to the computer where we have a program running Unity 3D,” says Shpatrov. “That program takes the raw data, filters it so there’s more smooth values, puts it into an algorithm and converts the acceleration data to orientation data. It gives the illusion that you are controlling the maze with the accelerometer.”

The project didn’t start out so smoothly. The original plan was to create a virtual reality game, connecting a smart phone to a computer. It took until 3 am the first night of the QHacks event to realize that this was not going to be feasible.

“The next morning when we woke up I thought, ‘This is not working,’ we need to pivot. We pretty much had 24 hours instead of 36 hours to build the project,” laughs Shpatrov.

The team took inspiration from the fact that the majority of other teams were working on projects based purely on software, and chose to add a hardware component to give them an edge. Team members collaborated, bringing different skills to the table, and had to learn new skills on the spot.

“It was actually first time coding in Unity,” Dominguez explains. “For the first couple of hours, I had to learn the structure of the program and pretty much the whole language.”

The students are enrolled in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Innovation stream (ECEi). The program offers an enriched curriculum to develop entrepreneurial and business skills alongside a technical engineering education. The program also gives students resources and knowledge to make their ideas come to life.

“I always wanted to make stuff but never really had the opportunity or knowledge,” says Dominguez. “I’d have an idea, but it wasn’t always feasible. APSC 142 helped me learn how to innovate and Professor Tom Dean gave great advice, teaching us how to observe society and see what is missing, find issue and from there, start thinking about possible solutions,”

All the team members are interested in coming up with solutions to real world problems.

“I want to pursue a career as an entrepreneur and figure out an idea I could take to market,” says Dominguez. “I’m also very interested in software, so to work as a programmer would be really cool for me.”