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LVHack 2015 Encourages the Creation of Innovative Ideas

By Colin McEvoy on March 30, 2015

A team from LV Hack 2013 working on using Kinect, a motion-sensing device, to correctly identify an individual's clothing size.

A team from LVHack 2013 working on using Kinect, a motion-sensing device, to correctly identify an individual’s clothing size.

Lehigh University graduates Greyson Parrelli and Michael Toth have both landed jobs working as software developers at Yahoo! But before that happened, they were kicking around ideas at LVHack.

“It sort of introduced me to this whole different culture of people who just want to get together and make things,” said Parrelli, who, like Toth, graduated in 2014. “I hadn’t really experienced that too much (so) it was great to see all these cool people.”

LVHack is a hackathon, where people with an interest in computer programming and software development get together for a weekend, pitch ideas for software projects, break into teams and collaborate to make those ideas a reality.

This year’s LVHack 2015, will mark the fourth annual event to be held in the Lehigh Valley. It will run from April 10 to 12 at Velocity, an urban coworking space at City Center Lehigh Valley in Allentown. Food is provided and prizes are given out at the end of the event.

Participants come with their laptops and starting pitching ideas, then receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas, then they have nearly 48 hours to design and code them, according to Tim Lytle of Lehigh Valley Tech (LVTech), which is organizing the event.

Ticket information can be found at the LVHack 2015 website, as well as information about how to become a sponsor. Attendance usually falls between 60 and 90 people.

The hackathons have led to the development of several unique projects. Last year, a team comprised mostly of high school and college students built cat and mouse robots, Lytle said. The mouse robot moved randomly around the room, and the cat robot used an IR sensor to track its movements and attempt to capture it.

Another team previously made actual working versions of the rings from the cartoon television show Captain Planet. In the show, combining the five magic rings summons the superhero Capital Planet. At LVTech, the team designed five rings which, when brought together, started playing the Capital Planet theme song on a nearby computer.

“The benefit of an event like this is you get to see technology in different ways,” Lytle said. “It may very well spur thought processes, where people say ‘Oh, I see what they did, I can apply this to a problem I’m having at work.’ And we’ve seen more than a few times teams that meet at LVHack then get together later to make something else because they had complimentary skillsets.”

During past LVHack events, Parrelli designed an Android app to help advertise events in South Side Bethlehem. Toth created a website for college students called Book Hookup, which matches people with similar course structures in different years, so they can swap books instead of having to buy and sell them each year.

Toth — who, like Parrelli, was part of Lehigh University’s computer science and business program — has since been to other major hackathons, like three separate visits each to PennApps and HackPrinceton, but he said he prefers LVHack.

“You can be goofy and you can really take big risks. Hacking is about leaving the established path, doing something disruptive and falling on your face quite a bit,” Toth said.

Lytle said many hackathons have changed to become more corporate, focused on getting hired rather than building something interesting. LVTech is more of a traditional hackathon focused on the idea of coming together, brainstorming ideas and building something.

LVTech organizes monthly meetups for start-ups, entrepreneurs, hackers, and technology enthusiasts in the Lehigh Valley. They also help organize Startup Weekend Lehigh Valley, in which teams pitch a business or product idea to a crowd, then recruit a team to build a prototype.

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