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TSU Engineering Students Participate in"Hack Nashville"

Myron Sallie

Students from Tennessee State University recently had the opportunity to hunker down with other like-minded “techies” and programmers from throughout the city to build products, share coding skills and participate in real-world programing exercises.

Billed as Hack Nashville, the event drew more than 300 participants who took part in the gathering November 7-9 where computer programmers and coders came together to collaborate on innovative products during the course of a weekend.

“So much innovation is coming out of these events,” said Dr. Sachin Shetty, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and one of the team leaders. “This was a great opportunity for our students to apply concepts they learn in the classroom to real-world applications. It was a tremendous boost to show the students exactly what they are capable of accomplishing.”

Hackathons have been around since the late 1990s and have sometimes been called a hackday or codefest where “hackers” meet other hackers, team up according to skill and interest, then collaborate and show off their final product. This is the sixth event hosted in Nashville since 2012 where organizers provide developers and designers a place to come together in a completely organic, unrestricted environment to create.

Shetty and co-team leader, Dr. Tamara Rogers, associate professor of Computer Science, helped prepare the engineering and computer science students compete in the cognitive exercise to develop solutions to real-world problems.

“We worked with other universities in the area to garner more student participation and interest in the event that has traditionally not been opened to students,” added Shetty. “Our students then came up with some unique concepts to demonstrate.”

A 10-member team of TSU students developed two projects at the event.  One project dealt with addressing the problem of controlling any software on a computer without using a keyboard or mouse, called a gesture-free recognition system.

The solution involved using the hands to interact with software on the computer. The team developed a system that used an armband to act as a sensor to control any program.

For example, the armband could enable hands-free audio mixing by altering pitch and volume of musical tones in any type of computer software by simply waving the hands.

Another team developed a low-cost mobile robot that teaches design principles, simple machines, and energy transfer to students in 5th and 6th grades.

“This opportunity was important to our students because it showed them what they are learning in the classroom has real-world applications and can be used to benefit and impact society,” said Shetty. “It also boosted their confidence knowing they have the skills, knowledge and ability to use this experience and take it to the next level and become marketable in any industry.”

Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of the College of Engineering, agrees, noting the hackathon itself offered a taste of real-world experience to students who are just used to specific assignments from instructors.

“It is important we continue to challenge our students in the classroom and laboratory to enhance their critical-thinking skills, and, at the same time, promote team-based learning while they are students,” Hargrove said. “This will make them more competitive when they graduate and enter the workforce.”

Department of Media Relations

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About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 42 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.