Students take on physics problems with first annual Schrodinger’s Hack

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Bethany Bouchard, Tim Whittaker, Anya Forestell and Jyler MenardIt’s been a crazy paced week for over 100 keen physics students who dove deep into the world of hacking to compete in UW’s first annual Schrodinger’s Hack.  

The free event which ran from October 23-30, 2020, was created by current UW physics students Bethany Bouchard, Tim Whittaker, Anya Forestell and Jyler Menard. The team hoped to provide students with a fun opportunity to test problem solving skills and collaborate with others over a week-long physics project.“Teams consisted of 2-4 members and competed on a physics related projected using programming, creativity and technical knowledge,” explains Bouchard, “teams were split between beginner and experienced to equal the playing field based on skill level.”

The hackathon was also a unique opportunity for more than students as planners hoped to encourage meaningful connections between industry and research leaders in physics with the students outside of the classroom environment. Companies that signed on as sponsors, guest speakers, mentors and judges included Perimeter Institute, D-Wave, TRIUMF, Riot Games, D2L and the Canadian Space Agency.

“About 32 teams participated,” says Bouchard, “We had our closing ceremonies Sunday night and by the end of the event there were 12 final projects submitted.” Finished products were voted on by science alumni, industry leaders and UW staff and faculty. 

Categories for Schrodinger’s Hack included: Ingenious Idea, Cleanest Code, Beyond the Bench, Helping Hand, Complex Conundrum, and Fan Favourite.

“Being given the opportunity to judge the submissions to Schrodinger’s Hack was a rare pleasure,” says Brian McNamara, chair of physics, “I am inspired by the novel ideas and the sophisticated coding solutions our Physics & Astronomy students developed in such a short period of time. The video depictions were fantastic. I can’t wait to do this again next year, hopefully in person rather than on Teams.”

Indeed, planning for Schrodinger’s Hack 2021 has already begun, with a newly assembled organizing team already in place ready to build on this year’s success. For the moment, however, Bouchard can reflect with a sense of pride and accomplishment on the past week, “I saw students who were invested in their projects, who worked through hurdles together, and who were learning new skills regardless of their previous experience.” She takes a moment to let that sink in and smiles, “It was incredibly inspiring and impressive, and resulted in fantastic final projects!”

List of Winners:

Beginners:

  • 1st Place:  Team 6B- ExoVis, offers an educational simulator for an exo-planet finding method using redshift and blueshift
  • 2nd Place: Team 12B- Models the spectra of hypothetical life in Venus's atmosphere
  • 3rd Place: Team 17B- Created a Climate Change Model by taking a look at how sunlight interacts with the atmosphere

Experienced:

  • 1st Place: Team E3- Looked at quantum state tomography by using variational quantum circuits
  • 2nd Place: Team 9E- GENZ Thrusters, used a custom particle simulator and a genetic algorithm to determine the best shape for rocket thrusters
  • 3rd Place:  Team 17B- Created a Climate Change Model by taking a look at how sunlight interacts with the atmosphere

For more information about the Schrodinger’s Hack, and how to be involved in future events, visit https://www.schrodingershack.com

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