SYDE Chicks rule the roost at Portal Hackathon

Ever had an idea that would change student life at UWaterloo? Every year dozens of students strive to leave their mark on campus, including the competitors who vie to build a new widget for the student portal. This year, nearly 40 students gathered at the Portal Hackathon to put their skills and creativity to the test.​Syde Chicks holding hackathon prizes

On March 12, student developers flexed their wrists and got settled into the six-hour competition, all hoping to snag the top prize in the competition. The judges assessed the widget prototypes based on how innovative and user-friendly the designs were. After several hours of furious programming, 13 great ideas emerged, with two breaking through to the top.  

Messaging widget presentationThe winning team, Syde Chicks, designed a widget that would allow users to create a personal profile on the portal and interact with their peers. This idea was the brainchild of Jessie Won and Tara Yuen, both in first year System Design Engineering. The two students felt that social messaging had serious potential to grow portal’s usage as well as provide a safe environment for connecting online. Syde Chicks’ messaging feature would allow students to explore other students’ profiles, share events with their friends or invite others to study dates.

We knew the target market was young adults and from experience knew that the best way to reach this demographic was through social media.

The Portal Hackathon’s runner-up prize went to team EZ Text, comprised of Ryan Samlalsingh, Johnson Han and Hao Chen. Their widget, Booklistic, would allow sellers to post books in an online marketplace without having to pay commission. For buyers, Booklistic would streamline Waterloo’s existing micro economy for used textbooks, making it easier to search for used textbooks and compare prices among individual sellers.  EZ Team

By having a searchable marketplace with all prices listed, students can ensure they’re getting deals on their books, says Ryan, a 1B Computer Engineering student. Having a searchable marketplace is much faster than looking through Facebook posts to find books.

The idea comes from my experience struggling to find the right used book at the right time for the right price,” explains Johnson, a 1B Electrical Engineering student.

EZ Text recommends the Portal Hackathon to any student with an interest in programming and design:  

If you are an experienced programmer, you will have the opportunity to show off your skills,” explains Johnson. “If you are new to programming, you will have the opportunity to ask questions and challenge your fast-learning skills in six hours. If you have an idea, there are enough resources to help you make your idea come true. Also it is a great place to meet people and make friends.

Portal logo

Other innovative designs included: a map of corridors between buildings, a mental health widget, off-campus restaurant widget, and an online note-sharing community.  

Thank you to all the competitors for sharing their talents - Congratulations again to Syde Chicks and EZ Text! 

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