CMU Wins International Women's Hackathon


October 18, 2014

A team from Carnegie Mellon University earned first place in the CoderDojo category at the Codess Silicon Valley, International Women's Hackathon. The team included Yun Cao, an INI master's student in the Information Technology-Software Management Program, Chueh-Min Cheng, an INI master's student in the Information Technology-Mobility Program, Nan Ke, a research assistant at the Silicon Valley campus, and Chihiro Suga, a doctoral student in ECE. The team is based at CMU's Silicon Valley campus.

Teams competed worldwide for the daylong event that was hosted by Microsoft Corporation and coordinated by the organization Codess. The competition presented three categories on the theme of social good: CoderDojo, Black Girls Code, and Disaster Response Challenge. The Carnegie Mellon team dominated in the CoderDojo category to create an educational software project for youth and parents.  

The winning entry was an educational website and a JavaScript-based game. "Circuit Runner" teaches the basics of electronic components and circuit design for elementary school children. In the game, the players use avatars and take turns as they try to make a complete circuit loop.

The game's graphics depict a breadboard with LEDs, resistors and capacitors. Starting at an icon of a battery, an avatar must make a full loop that ends at the battery, without crossing the loop's path. Players can earn and lose points according to how well the loop is designed. The game's companion website describes the scientific concepts and electronic components to help players learn and improve as they play.

"The idea of this prototyped game is to allow kids to explore and learn about the characteristics of the electronic components and discuss them with teammates while playing. The game abstracts the functionality of the actual electronic circuits," said Suga.

The team's idea to develop Circuit Runner was influenced by a Silicon Valley-area alumnus and the startup company AgIC. Team members Suga and Cao are currently working with Yuki Nishida (INI, 2014), whose company AgIC sells toolkits that equip a home printer to manufacture circuit boards using paper and conductive ink.