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Nasdaq Joins Forces With MIT to Help Students 'Hack for a Reason'

Nasdaq joins forces with MIT to help students 'Hack For a Reason'

By Lyanne Alfaro

More than 1,200 students from MIT and schools in places as far-reaching as London and India made their way to Cambridge, Massachusetts for HackMIT, MIT’s annual hackathon to tackle this year’s theme: Hacking for a Reason.

To kick off activities, students enjoyed workshops from experts in the tech field as well as keynote speakers, whose inventions have changed everything from the future of cities to computer languages.

Minerva Tantoco, co-founder of Grasshopper Bank and the first former CTO of City of New York, spoke about her groundbreaking implementation of LinkNYC, an invention that was more than a replacement for a payphone, but a way to democratize Wi-Fi by making  kiosks accessible to disabled users in the city.

“The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed,” she quoted William Gibson in reference to her approach to technology.

For the third year in a row, Nasdaq was one of the sponsors of the event, alongside companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook.  

Alums and employees gathered on site to present the Nasdaq Challenge using datasets from Quandl, a division of Nasdaq and marketplace for financial, economic and alternative data. The challenge? To create a project that displayed the best use of datasets for smart cities, personal financial decisions or applications beyond capital markets.

With multiple tracks and dataset options to choose from, students took unique approaches to the challenge, ranging from creating a service that helped match homeowners with their ideal neighborhoods to creating a productivity tool that allowed IT organizations to efficiently earmark where data should be stored.

At the end of a mostly sleepless weekend, students were awarded with cash prizes to advance projects, all-expense paid trips to Facebook’s national hackathon and from Nasdaq, a private dinner with Brad Peterson, Nasdaq's Executive Vice President, CIO/CTO and MIT alum.

After much deliberation, David Birnbach, Nasdaq’s head of university partnerships, and Pegah Salbi, Director of Data Operations at Quandl, helped choose the winners:

First Place: Diversity, a ridesharing app which helps match students with drivers they feel safe with based on driver persona profiles.

Second Place: 1DB, a practical productivity tool for IT organizations.

Third Place: Home Up, which helps prospective homeowners find their next neighborhood based on housing trends and affordability.

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