Florida Polytechnic University Team Takes Third Place at UHack 2015

Feb 22, 2015

What if there were an app that actually distracted people from their mobile devices for some lively conversation?

That is the mission of the aptly named Icebreaker, a mobile application developed by three Florida Poly students that took the third-place prize in the recent UHack 2015 competition at the University of Miami.

Graduate student Jacob Chen and undergrads James Amodie and Britt Mathis represented Florida Poly in the competition with a mobile application they dubbed Icebreaker. The app was written from scratch in a marathon programming competition that spanned 24 hours.

The hackathon was sponsored by Major League Hacking and the University of Miami’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Student Branch on Feb. 21, 2015. More than 200 students from Florida universities participated in the competition. The theme of this year’s event was “Hack for a better U” and focused on building projects for the benefit of improving one’s lifestyle.

Icebreaker was Florida Poly’s entry, developed in the overnight competition. The app serves as a social platform for users to meet new people and help them “break the ice” and find each other. Just how does the app work? The user opens up the app and clicks on a “Search” button to look for other users in his/her immediate vicinity. If another user is found in the same area, the application will send a quote to one user, and the author of the quote to the other user. Then it’s up to both users to talk with the people around them to find their quote and author counterpart.

The group hopes the application will be a great way for people to go out and start conversations that otherwise might never take place.

“The biggest challenge [in the competition] was the time constraint,” said Jacob Chen, who is getting his master’s in engineering from Florida Poly. “We had to develop the app quickly and learn the associated technologies at a rapid pace.” Added Britt Mathis: “The competition gave me a chance to work only on code, with no other distractions.”

The Florida Poly team competed against 20 other teams at the event and then presented their application to a panel of judges, which included representatives from Microsoft, Nielsen, and other high-tech companies.

The team also plans to continue development of their application, as well as participate in more hackathon events in the near future. “We are trying to come up with some sort of wearable or pluggable that can be easily associated with the mobile device. We have some good ideas and are looking forward to implementing them ASAP,” said Chen.