iSports App by All-Women Team Wins espnW Hack Day

November 15, 2012

Carnegie Mellon University's Ditaya Das, Pooja Gada and Divya Natesan won the espnW Hack Day for female developers on Nov. 9-10 at Stanford, Calif. Over 200 people attended the hackathon event held by ESPN in partnership with Stanford University, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Twilio and Mashery.

The Carnegie Mellon team topped the challengers with their iSports app, which won best in show and placed first in the category of best use of the Mashery API (application programming interface). The three second-year graduate students study information technology in the Information Networking Institute's bicoastal master's programs and are located at the Silicon Valley campus (CMU-SV) this fall.

"These hackathons provide us an avenue to implement novel ideas from the concepts we studied in our coursework," said Natesan. She and her team members are enrolled in a practicum, which is a capstone project that allows students to work for a corporate client in Silicon Valley on a real-world project.

"I'm delighted with the creative and innovative app developed by the team, including how they were able to take advantage of the image recognition techniques they had already explored for their practicum," said Dr. Ole J. Mengshoel, associate research professor at CMU-SV, who advised the team on their practicum.

iSports is an Android app used for watching sports highlights on YouTube videos or ESPN podcasts. It uses image recognition to identify the players in the video and show facts, such as biographical information and player-related statistics using the ESPN API. It displays a player's measured influence over social media using the Mashery API. In addition, the app mines for tweets by the player and also provides other relevant YouTube video recommendations. The team had to present their idea as part of the competition.

The audience at Hack Day were entertained and often broke into spurts of laughter as the women presented their idea for iSports with a healthy dose of humor. They recognized the app as useful and an innovative approach to watching sports videos.

"There was constant tweeting about the app and our presentation in progress," said Das.

The team's prizes included a trip to ESPN's campus in Bristol, Conn., two tickets for each student to any U.S. sporting event and a Jawbone Big Jambox wireless speaker. The team is also featured in an article in Wired Magazine ("Female Developers and Athletes Take the Leading Role at espnW Hack Day"). Among the other benefits, the students gained insight and new relationships with the many professionals at the event.

"It was such an amazing experience!" said Gada. "We got to meet and network with so many people in Silicon Valley."

"The professional opportunities in the Silicon Valley region have been invaluable to our students," said Dr. Dena Haritos Tsamitis, INI Director, who credited the faculty and staff at the Silicon Valley campus for working to connect the students with competitions and other workshops.

Pictured above: Ditaya Das, Divya Natesan and Pooja Gada. Below, this ESPN Front Row interview gives a brief wrap-up of the event.