By Stephanie Sokol
Out of 1,000 students from across the nation competing at this year’s MHacks, 14 were from Oakland University, and Dominic Dabish, a senior computer science major, was on the team that earned the gold prize from Microsoft for their app development “Pong With Me.”
“The experience was pretty awesome,” Dabish said. “Everyone was really inviting. I went there not really knowing what it was about but I got the idea. There was a lot of food and it was really good. I barely slept, but not because I was working too much — because I was having so much fun.”
MHacks started as a small University of Michigan-Ann Arbor hackathon group of 50 participants using their computer programming skills to compete. It now draws programming students from across the United States and is open to students at all levels.
“This is not a small event,” said Sebnem Onsay, OUSECS special instructor. “The fact that they (Dominic’s team) got selected and made it to the finals and got a gold prize is a huge deal. I treat them like local celebrities.”
Onsem said in addition to Dabish, many other OU students did great at the competition, including Andrew Clissold, Bhargavkumar Rughani, Stephen Payne, Ryan Conroy, Brandon Powell, Steven Wiggins, Arpan Rughani, Jack Stouffer, Archana Sevak and Ziyad Ol Obaidi.
The first time Dabish applied, he did not get in. He was then asked to take a C# programming test, and later,was invited to compete.
Going in on his own, Dabish joined a group with 2 other students from other universities.
Over a series of three days, the team created 3 applications, including the award-winning “Pong With Me,” which earned them the $1,299 Microsoft Surface Pro 3.
The application was programmed for iOS, Android, Blackberry, OS X, Linux and Windows — and the people at Microsoft were impressed.
“We caught all of the Microsoft employees playing it when we stopped by, hours after we initially showed them,” he said.
In addition to competing, attending the hackathon gave Dabish and other students involved a great networking opportunity. Representatives from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and company representativeswere onsite judging and interacting with participants.
“Code Michigan,” a state-wide competition is coming up in early October, in addition to another MHacks in January and more programming competitions throughout the year. Dabish is looking to create a team with OU students. Through his student organization, League of Engineers and Computer Scientists, Dabish wants to get people more excited about computer programming.
“Let’s try to get some OU people to be in the same group this time,” Dabish said. “Last time I worked with people from other universities, and that’s cool but I would love to work with students from my own university. I think that would be spectacular.”
Onsay and Special Instructor Laura Dinsmoor recommend students get involved in future programming competitions, regardless of their level of experience.
They also hope to someday host a hackathon on campus.
“As soon as students see there’s a competition, they should sign up,” Onsay said. “The sooner they sign up, the sooner they see what they’re getting into. A lot of the students that we have are very talented programmers, but they question themselves. My advice to them: do not question — apply and go there. What’s the worst that would happen? You won’t like the project, so what? You’ll meet many people. Go there and take the opportunity.”