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TigerHacks takes on new name, new aim

Students crowd around a table with a large TV, discussing a project.

The 36-hour event still split participants into groups to develop novel software ideas over the course of a weekend, but this year’s event brought a new partnership with the Reynolds Journalism Institute Student Competition. Photos by Amy Parris.

This year’s TigerHacks event was the old Hack Mizzou, but with a new name and a new aim.

The 36-hour event still split participants into groups to develop novel software ideas over the course of a weekend, but this year’s event brought a new partnership with the Reynolds Journalism Institute Student Competition, which meant the projects were created with a journalistic bent in mind.

Morrison with arms crossed and Skinner pose for a photo in front of a Cerner table.

Mizzou Computing Association Vice President Will Morrison and TigerHacks Director Holt Skinner helped ensure this year’s event had the highest participation in its history.

Participants in TigerHacks — which included students from Mizzou and various institutions from across the Midwest — were automatically eligible to submit their projects for the RJI Student Competition, which annually pairs journalism students and computer science students on projects that help solve a critical need in journalism. Winners of the RJI event secure technology-based prizes and the chance to pitch their ideas to executives in Silicon Valley.

“The Reynolds Journalism Institute was super excited about this,” Mizzou Engineering student and TigerHacks Director Holt Skinner said. “The issue they have is they usually have too many journalism students and not enough computer science students. … They said it was a really neat idea to get more students involved in this competition.”

The nearly 300 students who participated now have the chance to grow what’s usually a one-off weekend idea into something more sustainable. And they created a bevy of strong ideas, with winners including projects such as:

  • PhotoProof (William Fries — Truman State University), which utilizes notable online currency bitcoin to serve as a digital notary for photographs and other online data, allowing for photo accuracy and verification online
  • CheckURself (Sarah Hayden, Caleb Goze — College of the Ozarks), which allows users to easily scrub their social media of questionable language and photos prior to job interviews
  • Nüz (Jeff Ruffolo, John Carmichael, Jeremy Gonzalez, Luke Darrough — Mizzou), which utilizes IBM Watson Discovery to analyze public sentiment toward various news topics
  • Fake News Detector (Justin Hofer, Qiwen Guo — Mizzou), which does exactly what it purports to — help users identify misleading or outright fabricated articles

“They can actually create something sustainable, throw it into the competition, work on it for a whole year, get funding for it and go on to even bigger prizes,” Skinner said.

The attendance at this year’s TigerHacks set a new record, and Skinner is hopeful that the partnership with RJI will continue into the future. Should it continue, it would be another stellar example of the experiential learning opportunities and collaborative work that few places other than Mizzou can offer.

“To our knowledge, there’s never been a hackathon themed around journalism,” he explained. “We’re thinking about keeping that theme permanently. It’s just something different.”