The Mancunion

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MMU first-year wins prize at Manchester Hackathon

Computer Science student Bilawal Hameed won “Best Under 21s Creation” category and £600 for his “Bus Tracker” app

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Winners have been announced for Manchester’s first open-data Hackathon, and they include a Manchester Metropolitan University student.

Manchester City Council (MCC) made data available to participants for an all-day event aimed at creating new applications which will benefit the city.

Bilawal Hameed, a first-year Computer Science student, won the “Best Under 21s Creation” category and £600 for his “Bus Tracker” app which will tell you exactly when the next bus will arrive.

He said: “It was really nice but the recognition is more important than the money.

“I want to launch the first student Hackathon for Manchester universities next year and I think getting my name out there is a great way to get Manchester involved.”

Mr Hameed, who was the main programmer for the popular website www.hottieinthelibrary.com which launched in January 2012, has been interested in computing from a young age.

He said: “I’ve been programming since I was nine. My mum bought me a computer so I played about with it and learned how to hack.

“I launched my first start-up when I was 13 and when I was 15 I got investment for a start-up. It didn’t take off, but it was my entry into a bigger commercial market.”

His original idea for the competition involved placing tracking devices on every bus, but the day before the Hackathon he was told that MCC are already working on a similar system.

He said that he is “working closely” with MCC to incorporate these devices into his app when they are introduced.

The overall prize of £1,000 plus £3,600 development funding was won by James Rutherford and Ashley Herriott for their “Data Crossfader”.

It is a tool which lets you compare important data in specific areas by displaying it visually on a map.

Mr Rutherford said: “It was great to see so many people involved; from the hackers to the council representatives.

“It’s not just about the creative stuff that gets built. It’s also about the tendrils that grow between the respective communities.”

Asked about the negative portrayal of “hackers” in the media, he said: “I think there’s great value in knowing that we nerds can take what might look like dry data and add a genuine use or meaning to it for public benefit.”

Other winners included John Rees’ “Sat Lav” app, directing the user to the nearest public toilet, and Matt Schofield’s “Taxi Rank Finder” app.

Councillor Nigel Murphy, MCC’s lead member for Digital Manchester, said: “This Hackathon event is just the first part of an ongoing challenge to ensure that Manchester is in the front rank of open data-friendly cities.

“It’s vital that this is not just a one-off event but an ongoing engagement with the developer community to ensure that we build upon what’s been achieved. More and bigger events are planned in 2013.”