Students pull all-nighter coding

Garrett Kluever, Biz & Tech Editor

Students pulled an all-nighter Saturday creating video games and computer programs in the spirit of competition for the 2017 Hackathon.

Eight teams of students checked in to Hyland Hall for an entire night of coding from 8 p.m. Nov. 11 until 8 a.m. Nov. 12. The Hackathon was an overnight coding competition organized by UW-Whitewater’s Association of Information Systems (AIS) chapter.

“It’s about bringing all aspects of informational technology (IT) together and implementing what gets learned in the classroom,” senior Anna Maynard, president of UW-Whitewater’s AIS chapter said.

The projects were presented to judges that next morning, whose criteria focused on usability and ease of code (how well it runs). The three judges included an official from Whitewater’s AIS chapter, an IT instructor and a representative from Generac, which is a local technology manufacturing company that sponsored the competition.

Team Trojan Horse won first place for creating a video game called “Prysm” with the game developer tool Unity. “Prysm” is a three player side-scrolling game similar to Flappy Bird where a player takes control of a ball and continuously dodges spikes. It’s called “Prysm” because the lanes change color to represent the color spectrum in a prism.

Originally, the game was intended to be only single-player with the player controlling all three lanes, but the team decided to scrap it because it was too hard.

“We thought if one person was controlling all the lanes it might be more frustrating than hard, so we decided to make the switch,” said junior Connor Yass, member of team Trojan Horse. “We also thought of the multi-player being cooperative but we figured it wouldn’t be as fun as competitive multiplayer.”

This is the second year in a row that team Trojan Horse won first place. They won Hackathon 2016 with a shooting game about a farm called “Home on The Range.” The team used their time effectively in the beginning when coming up with the idea, which also helped them win last year.

“We get up to the whiteboard and conceptualize things we like, then create our base design around that, then we were able to start putting things in Unity by 10 p.m.,” said Trojan Horse team member senior Heath Eisen said.

But not all teams fared so well under the time pressure. One team scrapped its plan halfway through the night and was only able to present a character running on the screen during judging.    

Another team struggled with technology cooperating at the right time. Quinton Derezinski’s team created a slimmed down virtual lab to access UW Whitewater’s online programs remotely from non-campus computers, but a battery malfunction in the servers erased the project.

“When we went to go show it the Bios battery lost power and reset to all default settings on the device, which runs the virtualization in the environment,” said Derezinski. “So when it lost power, the switch was flipped off and the battery couldn’t keep the settings long enough when we moved the project down to present.”    

Even though the project fell through Derezinski said their team had fun staying up all night, and were less stressed by taking breaks to play video games.    

“We would go 20 minutes to two hours and then take 30 minutes to play video games together so we could wait for things to load and install,” Derezinski said.

Whether designing video games or playing them, the 2017 Hackathon was an all-nighter the students would gladly lose sleep over again.