(L-R) Kim Rakers, of AT&T, with first place winners and “Photo Code” creators Thomas Lynch, Daniel Harding and Eli Ball, along with SIUE alumnus Steve Wilkerson, of AT&T.

EHacks coordinators (L-R) were SIUE’s Dennis Bouvier, computer science students Jacob Baird, Gabe Mauer, Zach Anderson, Morgan Zellers, Tivon Missi and Meghan Heisler, and computer science instructor Socratis Tornaritis.EDWARDSVILLE - After working nearly nonstop from 7 p.m. Friday, March 24, until 11 a.m. Sunday, March 26, a team of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Engineering (SOE) students took first place in the second annual eHacks competition held at the T-REX Innovation Center in downtown St. Louis.

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The winning team comprised Thomas Lynch and Eli Ball, both of Rockford, and Glen Carbon native Daniel Harding. They created “Photo Code,” which is a system of educational tools used to teach core programming concepts and skills to kids with no programming experience.

“We decided to make Photo Code, because we recognize the increasing demand for and importance of young students to have a quality education in technology and computer science,” said Harding. “Photo Code was designed in such a way that it can be used in a grade school setting with low budgets and little access to technological resources. It was designed to be user-friendly and interactive, so young kids can learn about computer programming in a fun and engaging way.”

A hackathon is essentially an “invention competition,” with less emphasis on competition, and more on learning, creating, making new friends and having fun.

“Our project was challenging and almost too ambitious to take on during the time at eHacks,” Harding added. “But, we were innovative and determined, so we successfully overcame every hurdle we encountered. We’re grateful and humbled to have been recognized for our hard work.”

The hackathon’s opening ceremonies included a presentation by Angie Heise, president of Leidos Civil Group. Heise earned a bachelor’s in computer science from the SIUE School of Engineering in 1996.

Twenty-three projects, completed by approximately 80 participants, were created and judged. Competitors were from area collegiate schools. Prizes were awarded for best overall project as well as best user experience, best use of data, best visualization, most technically challenging and sponsored prize categories.

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Six SIUE students volunteered hundreds of hours to make the event a success. They were supported by a couple of dedicated staff members in the SOE Department of Computer Science, along with professor and department chair Dennis Bouvier, PhD.

“This was the second eHacks we’ve coordinated, and our number of participants doubled from last year,” said Bouvier. “It was a great weekend, with a lot of fantastic work completed. The T-Rex location proved to be a great place to host this year’s event. Not only did it offer large and small places for teams to work, but it also gave students a chance to see one of the hubs of innovation in the St. Louis area. We look forward to growing our event again next year.”

Event sponsors were Centene Corporation, Enterprise Holdings, AT&T, Care Otter, and NISC. Major League Hacking provided additional support.

The SIUE School of Engineering offers one of the most comprehensive and affordable engineering programs in the St. Louis region with eight undergraduate degrees, five master’s degrees and two cooperative doctoral programs, all housed in a state-of-the-art facility. Students learn from expert faculty, perform cutting-edge research, and participate in intercollegiate design competitions. Companies in the metropolitan St. Louis area provide students challenging internships and co-op opportunities, which often turn into permanent employment. All undergraduate programs are accredited by their respective accreditation agencies.

Angie Heise, president of Leidos Civil Group and SIUE alumna, presented during the opening ceremonies.





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