Alt earns “Best Idea” award for medical app in hackathon

Ashley Alt and her group were given the “Best Idea” award for their app, MedAux

by Emily Watson, Reporter

Freshman Ashley Alt competed in the Carroll County Hackathon from February 22-24 and was recognized as having one of the best ideas for a future app. The event was coordinated by MAGIC, the Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory.

When most people hear hackathon, they think of a group of people doing nefarious hacking projects on computers. In reality, hackathons have a basic goal, to help people grow in their ability to design, build, and pitch an app.

Alt’s team envisioned an app, MedAux, which would compare prices of medical procedures. This would drive down prices because consumers could compare what doctors and hospitals charge.

“I like that MedAux answered a question that many people face when seeking medical care. A number of judges commented that it was a great idea, and they mentioned liking that the app used data that was already available,” said Amy Rupp, MAGIC Executive Director.

Alt was mainly focused on design and tech while one of her partners, Brianna from Walkersville High worked on the business aspect. The two other teammates, Sidhant and Steven, both from McDaniel College helped in all areas.

“We used a website that helped us create it because we only had two days to make the app,” said Alt.

The overall atmosphere of the event was hectic as teams tried to build an app in two days. Teams aspired to earn one of five awards: Best App, Best Design, Best Tech, Best Idea, and Best Pitch.

There wasn’t a lot of planning or preparation that anyone could do other than come up with ideas for an app topic. Inspiration for the app came from Alt’s father, Mark Alt, a computer programmer. The four teammates did some debating on the first day, but decided Alt’s idea was best.

“We also have a cyber security competition for beginners. It’s called the “Capture the Flag Competition.” We try to get students involved in those. We just do as much as we can to help students acquire new skills and demonstrate them in environments like the hackathon or capture the flag competition,” said Robert Wack, a member of the Board of Directors for MAGIC.

People of all skills levels can participate in hackathons. Hackathons may allow an award-winning app to be fully designed and used on the market.

During both days, there wasn’t a strict schedule. There were meal times, but other than that, teams just worked in their own work spaces.

“It was just a lot of fun planning new things and showing our idea,” said Alt.

On March 30, Alt is going back to meet about her team’s app with the coordinators of the event. “We are continuing on and thinking about making it an actual app,” said Alt.

Hackathons are for all kinds of people. They come at different levels from those who want to learn the ropes to experts in the field. People who are new to hackathons should plan a team ahead and think through their idea fully. This isn’t required, but may help the event go more smoothly.

“I have thought about that,  they also have a national organization called “Girls that Code.” We could start that next year to get more people involved in computer science,” said Leanne Elsemore, a business and computer science teacher at Linganore.

Alt hopes to major in computer science and is actively looking for affordable hackathons to challenge her.

If you are interested in business, design, technology, or want to try something new, check out MAGIC’s website.