‘Tech Meetup’ attracts crowd of developers, programmers
It turns out that computer scientists aren’t a superstitious bunch. Despite the unlucky date, on Friday the 13th, more than 125 programmers, developers and students interested in the bustling Rutgers tech scene attended the fall semester’s first Rutgers University Tech Meetup in The Cove in the Busch Campus Center.
Organized by Rutgers Mobile App Development club and the Undergraduate Student Alliance of Computer Scientists, the Tech Meetup featured several new apps, all of which were built and designed by Rutgers students and alumni.
These apps were almost entirely homebrewed during students’ free time, and the apps presented ranged from a system to remind users to stop being lazy and build a program to the popular Phonesmash, a game played by throwing a phone as high in the air as possible.
Top Three Apps of the Night
Delphi is a voice-recognition platform inspired by the iPhone’s Siri. Kaushal Parikh, a School of Arts and Sciences junior who also runs the University’s HackRU, designed the app. Delphi is able to respond to voice requests and plugs directly into three popular websites: Yelp, Hipmunk and xkcd.
Saying “Delphi, random xkcd please” successfully returned a random comic from the popular series. More impressively, “Delphi, book me a flight from Seattle to Cincinnati for today” brought up a Hipmunk search for flights between the two cities.
Another app presented was Pokerama, an application developed by five Rutgers students — Yair Aviner, Wayne Chang, Will Langford, Kenny Bambridge and The Daily Targum’s own Nis Frome — at this year’s Penn Apps hackathon. Pokerama is a unique take on poker. There’s no need for physical cards, so long as you make sure to bring your smartphone.
A tablet, optimally placed in the center of a table, acts as a deck and shows the game’s flop, turn and river. Players log in wirelessly and are dealt their hand on their phones. Pokerama offers a full poker experience — betting, folding, doubling down all work exactly as one would expect.
Vaibhav Verma, a graduate student, was one of the last to present an app. That didn’t mean it wasn’t a useful one. His app, named Scheduler, is a simple and readable way to see if a class at Rutgers is open or full. It plugs directly into Verma’s Schedule Sniper, a tool that sends an alert by text message or email when a closed class opens.
Scheduler can return easy-to-read information on a class based off multiple types of searches: typing in CS 112, 198:112 or even just “Data Structures” will return all sections, times and locations for the class.
The Keynotes and Speeches
The meet-up also featured two keynote speakers, Mike Swift and Pete Sullivan, both of whom are Rutgers alumni now involved in the tech startup world. George Matthews, a Microsoft employee, also spoke about what it’s like to work at a large company in the technology field.
Swift, one of the developers behind Hacker League, a system to organize hackathons, or marathon group computer programming sessions, spoke about how important community is to the programming world.
During his keynote presentation, Swift made a point to get one message across above anything else: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” When developing a program, he said people are the best resource you have.
Pete Sullivan, a developer currently working on JackPocket, an app that lets users buy lottery tickets directly from their mobile phone, gave some advice to developers worried about failure in his keynote speech.
He said programmers shouldn’t waste too much time on the design of their projects.
“Your product is going to change a million times,” he said.
Sullivan went on to talk about how difficult it can be to deliver a pitch to potential investors as well as get a product into the hands of the right people.
“Storytelling is where it’s at,” he said. “The story is what reels them in.”
He encouraged those at the meetup to keep at it even when the going gets tough.
Matthews acted as a foil to Swift and Sullivan, who are involved in smaller operations than the tech behemoth Microsoft.
Matthews said working at a large company like Microsoft guarantees many people will use your product, eliminating the worry associated with working at a smaller startup.
His best advice for computer science work, though, was short and sweet.
“Be quick, but don’t hurry,” he said.
How It All Happened
Frome and Billy Lynch, who organized the event, were clearly proud of the large turnout and the presence that Microsoft had on Friday night.
Lynch, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, was excited to have Matthews at the event.
“We really pushed for someone that was not just a recruiter, but someone with real technical experience that students would be excited about,” he said.
Frome said RuMAD has a good relationship with Microsoft for a while now, having co-organized several events with them in the past.
“[When Microsoft] realized the tech community here at Rutgers was not only vibrant, but growing, they wanted to get even more integrated,” he said. “They introduced us to George, so we thought it would be a great opportunity for him to speak at one of our best events of the semester — the Rutgers Tech Meetup.”
Lynch said spreading the word about the event to students was a combined effort between the student organizations that ran the event.
“I’m not surprised that we had such a great turn-out, because we have an awesome student CS and tech community here at Rutgers between the various student organizations,” he said.
Lynch said he also made sure to advertise the event at the locations computer science students are known to hang out, like the Hill Center’s Cave, a popular watering hole for Rutgers computer science students.
Tyler Gold is a contributing tech writer for the Daily Targum and an intern at The Verge. You can follow him on Twitter @tylergold.