INI Students Place Second in Silicon Valley Hack-a-Thon

October 12, 2012

Carnegie Mellon's 

Shrikant Adhikarla, Ashwin Das, Arno Lenin Malyala and Divya Natesan (MS23)--going by the name "Team TARTANS"--rose to the top in a field of over sixty programmers to earn second place in the PayPal Hack-a-thon. PayPal hosted the contest in Silicon Valley on September 21-22, giving teams the goal of creating an application within 24 hours that would involve their online payment service.

For their entry, the four INI students designed a "wallet-less" shopping application that would allow customers to make purchases simply by having their picture taken at checkout. A merchant would use the application to identify the items in a shopping cart, calculate the amount due and then take the shopper's picture. On the back end, the application would identify the shopper with the photo and connect to his or her PayPal account for payment. The shopper would also enter a PIN for additional security.

The team demonstrated the use of facial recognition to carry out the payment process without the need for a shopper to use any cards. The challenge here was to train the machine-learning algorithm to show the feasibility of the idea. The team did not fully integrate the front-end and the back-end of the application during the course of the time-sensitive competition; however, the judges were impressed by the team's idea, application and presentation.

The judges praised the team for their innovation, the usefulness of the concept, and their use of diverse skill sets, as the team was made up of students in the INI's information technology master's programs in mobility, security and software management.

For their efforts, a second-place prize of $2500 went to the team. In addition, competitors had the chance to meet Doug Crockford, the inventor of JSON, and other talented leaders at PayPal. CTO James Barrese later recognized the team's win during his seminar, The Cloud's Silver Lining, on the Silicon Valley campus.

Read more about the competition on PayPal's blog.

Pictured above from left to right: Shrikant Adhikarla, Arno Lenin, Nick Peddy (Sr. Manager of Architecture at Paypal), Nik Sathe (VP Architecture and Infrastructure at Paypal), Ashwin Das, and Divya Natesan