Hackathon Competition Spurs Student Collaboration on Creative Solutions

Achievement date: 

Students competed in a 36-hour Seattle hackathon—organized by the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) with headquarters at the University of Washington—with the winning team developing open-source software that makes facial rehabilitation systems more engaging. 


In less than two days, students from different schools had to devise, learn, bond, and produce a working product. Students learn to operate under the time pressures of industry, and connections made at the event have led to increased collaborations across institutions. The event also drew coverage from the UW Daily student newspaper.


Fifteen students, five from each of CSNE’s partner institutions, met at the Center’s headquarters for the second annual two-day competition. Each team included three students from different institutions. The teams applied principles from sensorimotor neural engineering to create novel technology on the accelerated time scale. Each team worked with an array of technological resources and, at the conclusion of the Hackathon, presented its prototype to a panel of judges and the broader CSNE community.

Teams were judged on the device or system's alignment with the CSNE mission and vision, project innovation and technological merit, and presentation quality. Judges were asked to also keep in mind that the teams included students with various backgrounds in science and engineering, that they had limited time and physical resources to complete the project, and that some teams might be sleep-deprived due to the long weekend of working.


The winning project, called “Face the Music,” is an open-source creative software outlet that uses facial electromyography to make facial rehabilitation systems more engaging. Users can draw, play music, or create art using the recorded electrical activity.