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Austin Peay students win best solo hack, place second overall at regional hackathon

Austin Peay senior Susan Kersten recently won “Best Solo Hack” at the CatHacks hackathon at the University of Kentucky, and her teammates won second place overall at the competition for hack that helps teach people sign language.

The wins add to the hackathon success Austin Peay students have had this year.


From the left, Aidan Murphy, Susan Kersten and Nathan Nickelson work on their hacks.
From the left, Aidan Murphy, Susan Kersten and Nathan Nickelson work on their hacks.

Kersten worked solo to find a way to switch between presentations when multiple people have PowerPoint presentations to give.

“I've been in classrooms where there are multiple students doing presentations in a row, and there’s always a good five minutes of downtime where nothing happens because one person is waiting to log in, or get to their PowerPoint,” Kersten said.

The hack she created, which she named “The People’s Power(Points),” congregates links to everyone’s PowerPoint, “with the idea you would make a ‘session’ for your unique set of presentations,” loading pages on cue. She built the hack using only a small, $200 Linux Lite laptop.

You can read more about Kersten’s hack at https://devpost.com/software/the-people-s-power-points.

Her successful hack allowed her to remember “the joy of getting deep into a project where I’m learning and keep finding new things as I work through problems,” she said.


From the left, Nathan Nickelson, Dylan Engle and Aidan Murphy work on their hack, “LeapLearning: Sign Language.”
From the left, Nathan Nickelson, Dylan Engle and Aidan Murphy work on their hack, “LeapLearning: Sign Language.”

Dylan Engle, Nathan Nickelson and Aidan Murphy created a hack that teaches sign language by example. Learners can perform a piece of sign language, and the program will tell them if they performed the sign correctly.

“One of our team members had worked with the Leap Motion at a previous hackathon, so we decided to give it another try and help people to learn sign language,” the team wrote on its entry webpage.

The team named their hack “LeapLearning: Sign Language.” You can read more about the hack at https://devpost.com/software/leaplearning-sign-language.

The accomplishment they’re most proud of? “We managed to actually get a working proof of concept for the program.”

Kerston, Engle, Nickelson and Murphy are members of the Austin Peay Association of Computing Machinery, which has had a lot of success at hackathons this year. Team members also did well at HackGT at Georgia Tech and VolHacks at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

CatHacks, which was March 30-31 this year, draws college hackers from across the nation for the 24-hour competition and networking event.


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