March 18, 2019  

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Southern Miss Gulf Park Students Place in Mobile Hackathon

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Students from Southern Miss Gulf Park School of Computing develop programming for a website during the second annual Hackathon held in Mobile, Ala. (Photo submitted.)

Five students from the School of Computing at The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park Campus recently competed in a “Hackathon” April 8 in Mobile, Ala.

Hosted by Rural Sourcing, Inc. (RSI), the second annual Mobile Hackathon – also known as a hack-day, hackfest or codefest – is an event in which computer programmers, and others in the field of software development, collaborate intensively on a software-related project for a set amount of time.

“Every year we look forward to this event because it gives us an opportunity to see these highly skilled students in action and it allows them to meet and work with like-minded participants,” said Margaux Kaynard, vice president of human resources for RSI.

Representing Southern Miss Gulf Park, School of Computing students participating included: Courtney Kirkham, Teneala Spencer, Joseph Jones, Ann Messer and Mason Landry. Grouped into two separate teams, Kirkham and Spencer – along with members from another institution – made up Team Bit Jockies while Jones, Messer and Landry made up Team Golden Eagle.

For the competition, the five contending teams had four hours to create a prototype for a website that mapped six parade routes for Mardi Gras using Google maps. The routes also had to include the locations of food vendors, public restrooms and road closures.

At the end of the four hours, Team Bit Jockies came in second place and Team Golden Eagle, third place.  

“The Hackathon is one of the coolest programming experiences I have ever had. It was exciting to throw myself into a new experience and challenge myself to create a project, in a matter of hours,” said senior computer science major Courtney Kirkham. “I was really proud that both teams with students from the USM Gulf Park campus won. I think it really showed the strength of our computer science program and was a testament to the kind of programmers we produce.” 

In Team Golden Eagle, graduating senior and applied computer science major Joseph Jones, said he was proud of the way his team represented Southern Miss, especially since their team was the only group that managed to get all six parade routes to work.

“It was quite a sprint to the finish. Competing against other students really gave us an idea of where we stand as programmers,” said Jones. “I had no idea some of our opponents were grad students. Placing against them has inspired me to work much harder at improving my skills.”

The students also agreed that the Hackathon provided them the opportunity to learn from other peers who were in the same, or similar, field as themselves. While at the competition, they had the chance to view other participants approach the programming differently, allowing them the ability to see the job done from a different angle. 

“Having to code under pressure was definitely different than working on a classroom assignment,” said Teneala Spencer, a sophomore computer science, Spanish and electrical engineering major. “I enjoyed the experience mostly because I was able to work with other programmers with more experience than myself. Not to mention, I had to write code in a language and integrated development environment that was unfamiliar to me. I believe winning was an added bonus to the experience because I desired to learn new things more than I desired to win.”

On behalf of the School of Computing, Assistant Director and Instructor Tom Rishel said that he was proud of the students and their accomplishments.

"Their willingness to participate in this industry-sponsored event and their ability to succeed demonstrates the drive and quality of our students,” he said.

RSI is a U.S.-based IT outsourcing company that provides a cost-effective, agile approach to software development and support of both on-premise and cloud applications. With development centers strategically located throughout the United States, RSI leverages untapped, highly skilled IT resources in smaller cities to provide world-class solutions for Fortune 1000 clients across various industries, including pharmaceutical, healthcare, hi-tech, and consumer and retail goods.