College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Student team gains runner-up at Dwolla hackathon

hackathonA team of Iowa State University seniors in computer and software engineering was runner-up of the “Best Mashup API” prize category at a hackathon hosted by Dwolla, the Des Moines based e-commerce company that provides online and mobile payment systems.

The 24-hour Old MacDonald Hackathon, held Dec. 1, challenged teams of up to five people to create an innovative software system using Dwolla’s application programming interface (API).

The Iowa State team, consisting of Patrick Clark (senior, computer engineering), Arthur Domino (senior, computer science), Michael Ore (senior, computer engineering and mathematics), Christopher Van Oort (senior, software engineering), and Christopher Waters (senior, software engineering), put together a prototype Facebook application for group bill payment management. The primary users of the app would be college students who share apartment bills with other students, but it can be used by any group of people who desire a simple way to manage payment for split bills.

“I think part of the inspiration for the app was based off of our own personal needs while building an application that captured the essence of what Dwolla does: move money for free/cheap,” said Van Oort

“After deciding on the app, we chose to make it a Facebook app,” said Waters. “The reasoning is almost every college student has a Facebook account and users are most likely friends with their roommates.”

The team expects to launch the application by early next year.

Designing the app under narrow time constraints was a challenge, said Waters, saying it differed from past work where he and teammate Van Oort designed software programs that take months to create.

“It was definitely a lot of fun. I wouldn’t say it was very stressful, because there were no negative consequences for not finishing. However, at some point throughout the night, we realized we were a little too ambitious in designing a system that had a fair amount of functionality. What we should have done, for this type of event, was focus on the absolute core functionality and implement that,” said Waters.

The team was pleased with the outcome, said Van Oort.

“We started on a path to build an end-to-end system that would compete with the other teams at the competition. Conceptually, we didn’t want to be outdone; there were some great ideas and hacks presented but we got some ‘wow’s’ and ‘great job’s’ from the crowd of mostly professionals.”