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MHacks Winner: GreenCan Demo

9/22/2013

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Watch this demo of an intelligent trash can that sorts recyclables from garbage. GreenCan won first prize at this weekend's 36-hour maker blitz, MHacks, the world’s largest college hackathon.

An intelligent trash can that sorts recyclables from garbage won first prize at this weekend’s 36-hour maker blitz, MHacks, the world’s largest college hackathon.

Organized by Michigan Engineering students and held at the U-M stadium, the event drew a record 1,214 people from roughly 100 schools across the country. The team that made “GreenCan” came by bus from the University of Maryland. The students were one of the few groups to make a physical object, rather than an app or a web tool.

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Bothered by seeing glass bottles and aluminum cans in the trash even when a recycling bin is close by, classmates Zachary Lawrence, Joshua Drubin and Andres Toro arrived at MHacks with an idea for a single-stream receptacle. The bin they built has a swing top that pivots in a different direction based on the sound an object makes when it hits it.  Ping-y cans and bottles end up on one side of a partition and thud-y foam cups on the other, for example.

“I never dreamed of coming here and actually winning,” Drubin said. “It feels unbelievable” – even on six hours sleep total for the past two nights. The GreenCan guys took a cat nap approach, slumbering for 30-minute stints every five hours.

“We’re definitely going to feel it soon enough,” said Toro, as their 10-hour ride home approached.

GreenCan won $6,000 and entry into Greylock Hackfest, a high-profile, competitive event organized by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Greylock Partners. Team tabbr from Carnegie Mellon University took the $2,000 third place with a web tool that searches through open tabs open on a computer.

The $3,000 second place went to team Save My Glass, a “head-up” driving display for Google Glass devised by Mike Huang and Austin Feight, juniors in computer science and engineering at U-M. Save My Glass would essentially project a car’s dashboard information through the Google Glass so the driver wouldn’t have to look down to see it. The tool could also use the Glass’s blink sensor to determine if the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel, and if so, vibrate to wake him up. Finally, the tool could use the Glass’s motion sensors to detect a crash and, if one occurred, dial 911.

Google was one of the event’s many sponsors. Baris Yuksel, a senior software engineer there who came from New York to serve as a mentor, was inspired by the hackers’ passion and energy.

“When I look here, I see the future,” Yuksel told the crowd at the awards ceremony. “One of you is going to make the next big thing and the other will make the next, next big thing, and so on. In five years, 10 years you’re going to be the tech kings. You’re going to be awesome. You are awesome.”

Yuksel thanked MHacks organizers who chartered buses to and from schools across the country, and arranged for those beyond driving distance to get airline stipends in order to bring so many students together to create. MHacks organizers urged participants to pay it forward, in a sense.

“This was one of the most incredible weekends of my life,” Thomas Erdman, a junior in computer science and engineering at U-M who led the event, told the crowd. “I hope it was one of the most incredible weekends of yours.

“Go home and spread the culture at your schools,” he continued. “We saw so many problems solved in 36 hours! Imagine what we can do in a month, or a semester.”

MHacks Hackathon 2013

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The MHacks Hackathon 2013 opening ceremony in the Crisler Center on September 20, 2013 in Ann Arbor, MI. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

MHacks Hackathon 2013

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Hackers hack during the MHacks Hackathon 2013 in the Big House on September 21, 2013 in Ann Arbor, MI. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

MHacks Hackathon 2013

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Hackers sit in the luxury suite during the MHacks Hackathon 2013 in the Big House on September 21, 2013 in Ann Arbor, MI. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

MHacks Hackathon 2013

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Hackers play football and ultimate frisbee on the field during the MHacks Hackathon 2013 in the Big House on September 21, 2013 in Ann Arbor, MI. The field was open during two occasions for hackers to play ultimate frisbee and football. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

MHacks Hackathon 2013

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Hackers enter the Crisler Center for the opening ceremony of the MHacks Hackathon 2013 on September 20, 2013 in Ann Arbor, MI. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

MHacks Hackathon 2013

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William Irwin, Jesse Daugherty, and Chris O'Neil; UMich Computer Science BSE Students and Hackers, work on their video application "Mash It" during the MHacks Hackathon 2013 in the Big House on September 22, 2013 in Ann Arbor, MI. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

MHacks Hackathon 2013

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Hackers hack during the MHacks Hackathon 2013 in the Big House on September 21, 2013 in Ann Arbor, MI. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

MHacks Hackathon 2013

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A mess of pizza boxes and beverage containers during the MHacks Hackathon 2013 in the Big House on September 22, 2013 in Ann Arbor, MI. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

MHacks Hackathon 2013

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Jonathan Osacky, UIUC Student and Hacker, takes a nap during the MHacks Hackathon 2013 in the Big House on September 21, 2013 in Ann Arbor, MI. The Hackathon hosted over 1200 students from colleges and high schools across the United States and Canada. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

MHacks Hackathon 2013

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With the lights on for the entire duration of the Hackathon, hackers found resourceful ways to sleep during the MHacks Hackathon 2013 in the Big House on September 22, 2013 in Ann Arbor, MI. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

MHacks Hackathon 2013

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Joshua Drubin, Andres Toro, and Zachary Lawrence; University of Maryland students and creators of the hack "GreenCan" celebrate after they are announced as winners of top prize for best hack at the closing ceremony of the MHacks Hackathon 2013 in the Crisler Arena on September 22, 2013 in Ann Arbor, MI. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

MHacks Hackathon 2013

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Zachary Lawrence, Andres Toro, and Joshua Drubin; University of Maryland students and creators of the hack "GreenCan" pose for a celebratory picture after they are announced as winners of top prize for best hack at the closing ceremony of the MHacks Hackathon 2013 in the Crisler Arena on September 22, 2013 in Ann Arbor, MI. Photo: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

About Michigan Engineering: The University of Michigan College of Engineering is one of the top engineering schools in the country. Eight academic departments are ranked in the nation's top 10 -- some twice for different programs. Its research budget is one of the largest of any public university. Its faculty and students are making a difference at the frontiers of fields as diverse as nanotechnology, sustainability, healthcare, national security and robotics. They are involved in spacecraft missions across the solar system, and have developed partnerships with automotive industry leaders to transform transportation. Its entrepreneurial culture encourages faculty and students alike to move their innovations beyond the laboratory and into the real world to benefit society. Its alumni base of nearly 70,000 spans the globe.

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