The Rice IEEE student chapter has had a busy few months. In November, they hosted the second annual Rice Microsoft Puzzle Hunt. Most recently, in February they participated in Hack.Rice and brought hardware support to an event that has been typically software-oriented.
Hack.Rice is an annual hackathon event, hosted by the Computer Science (CS) Club. From the event website: “Participants trade their sleep for a weekend and join a team to create a project - typically software - in an environment optimized for creativity. At the end of the event, the participants demonstrate their projects to fellow hackers, visitors, and a panel of judges.”
IEEE saw an opportunity for bringing a new component to this popular event.
“In planning IEEE events for the year, people expressed interest in doing some sort of competition or hack-a-thon that was based on hardware. So, we approached the CS Club and proposed the idea of incorporating hardware into this year’s Hack.Rice competition. The club was eager to have us come on board,” said IEEE co-president Chase Stewart.
Along with IEEE, EtherNest was also an official partner for the event. Before Hack.Rice even started, the groups had organized a workshop for participants on some of the hardware tools that would be available to them. Once Hack.Rice went live, they checked out hardware and provided technical support for the full 24 hours of the event.
With over 250 attendees, and over $8,000 in prizes awarded, IEEE and EtherNest want to continue to work with the CS club to grow this event and its appeal to students who want to hack on a variety of devices and platforms.
“We had several students come up to us during and after the event to tell us that they thought having a strong hardware component really added a whole new dimension to this year’s competition,” IEEE co-president Spencer Kent said. “There was a lot of enthusiasm to build on this momentum in the future, and there’s a desire from IEEE, EtherNest and the CS club to continue to collaborate.”
“We were able to manage over $10,000 in hardware generously provided to us for this event by groups like Major League Hacking, the OEDK, and the EtherNest,” co-organizer Abhipray Sahoo said.
This is IEEE’s third big success story of the year. In October, Rice IEEE teams placed in IEEEXtreme, and in November, they hosted the annual Rice Puzzle Hunt. Brought to Rice by alumnus Lee Xiong in 2013, it was inspired by Microsoft’s Puzzle Hunt and also their Intern Puzzle Day, which are problem-solving and scavenger-hunt events held annually at the company.
"One of the coolest things about this event was that we had participation from students representing 21 different majors on campus. It was our objective that we include people outside of ECE and the School of Engineering. We were very happy with the turnout,” Kent said.
The puzzles took into account the wide variety of majors and presented a challenge to all students, regardless of their field of study.
“What was most difficult about the puzzles was that most of them had zero instructions, so people had to infer what was being asked of them,” Kent said.
"We were really impressed with how well all the teams did. We doubled the number of puzzles from last year and there were several teams that solved almost all of the 12 puzzles in only three hours. One of our biggest takeaways was just how sharp and creative Rice students are."
Over 40 teams competed in the hunt, using whatever resources they wanted to try and solve the puzzles. The winners were determined based on points that directly related to the number of puzzles they solved. The first through fifth place teams received prizes including Xbox Ones, tablets, keyboards and t-shirts.
"The turnout this year was fantastic -- even bigger than last year. We heard lots of requests to make this a recurring event and that's our plan going forward,” said Puzzle Hunt co-organizer Abhipray Sahoo.
"Big thanks to Microsoft for helping us make this happen! We want to do it even bigger and better next year.”