Student teams tackle tech industry challenges at PatriotHacks 2023

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More than 500 students, nine sponsors, and 50 volunteers gathered on George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus for the fifth annual PatriotHacks hackathon from October 6–8. After working for 36 hours straight, student teams presented 70 projects to a panel of judges and received feedback and prizes.  

“Each year, PatriotHacks continues to grow, and students accept the challenge and create truly innovative projects to fulfill the various tracks. The level of technological innovation seen in this one weekend is proof of the caliber of research, work, and experience at George Mason University,” said event organizer Kamaljeet Sanghera, executive director of Mason’s Institute for Digital Innovation and a professor of information sciences and technology. She added, “We are very grateful to our sponsors for their contributions. Their support is critical to both the success of this event and the work we do at Mason.”

people at AWS workshop
People at the Amazon Web Services workshop. Photo by Kamaljeet Sanghera

Student organizers worked tirelessly to make the event a success. Computer science major Krishna Purohit, who was in charge of sponsor outreach, noted this year’s event yielded more than triple the number of submitted projects than last year’s hackathon. “We're excited to scale the hackathon and make it one of the largest in Virginia,” he said. 

Student teams designed solutions for problems presented by event sponsors, such as Peraton, Amazon, Special Competitive Studies Project–SCSP, Arcfield, GEICO, Salesforce, and the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) NoVa Node. 
"CCI NoVa Node is making significant investments in hands-on cybersecurity experiences for the tech talent pipeline in the [Northern Virginia] region,” said Liza Wilson Durant, associate provost for strategic initiatives and community engagement and director of the Northern Virginia Node of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI). “Events like PatriotHacks are an important way to build technical capacity in students, share innovative ideas across disciplines, and support the development of the diverse pipeline of talent we are cultivating in Northern Virginia." 

Mason students Akhil Rachure,  Sai Kumar Kattera, Sai Preethi Pantangi, and Kevlar Nalankilli joined forces for the hackathon; their team won two tracks, hosted by Peraton and Salesforce, respectively, with two different projects.  

winning team
From left, Sai Preethi Pantangi, Akhil Rachure, a Salesforce representative, Sai Kumar Kattera, and Kevlar Nalankilli. Photo by Akhil Rachure

“It was a grueling 36-hour marathon of brainstorming, coding, and innovation, and finally, all the hard work paid off,” said Rachure, who is majoring in data analytics engineering. 

“PatriotHacks 2023 was special and different from other hackathons I’ve been to. There were lots of track options to choose from, including sponsored ones and Mason tracks, with experts around to help us out,” said Kattera, who is majoring in computer science. “We all worked together really well, and that’s the main reason we could build our product in just 36 hours. This experience taught me that with a strong team effort, anything is possible.”  

The team won the Peraton track with their project, an application meant to help travelers plan safer trips.  

“The app displays routes from point A to B and also highlights danger zones, helping users avoid potential crashes,” said Rachure. 

The team won a track hosted by Salesforce with a related project. Pantangi, a computer science major, explained, “We leveraged Tableau to craft a comprehensive dashboard. This dashboard is designed to empower car companies with valuable insights into car crashes, categorized by model and body type.” 

For students new to hackathons, PatriotHacks 2023 made a positive impression. Computer science major Nathan Albe, who won the Best Powered AI track with teammates Mohamed Shaik, Sanjay Mohan Kumar, and Sami Saifudin, said, “This was my first hackathon, and I can say it was a great first experience.... I felt like I learned how to effectively work toward a project and goal, not just by myself but in a team environment.” 

Albe also said, “Thank you to all of the volunteers and sponsors at PatriotHacks for creating such a memorable event. I loved working with my team, and I learned so much. Can't wait for next year!”