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Sophomore Lee Tarnow, junior Annika Erickson, junior Nicholas Flanders, visiting computer science professor Cameron Dutro, and Saint Louis University student Austin Smith teamed up to win first place in MasterCard’s “Masters of Code Global Hackathon: St. Louis.” Hackathon, as it is colloquially known, is a computer programming competition which took place Saturday, October 10 and Sunday, October 11.

Since the team won, they will compete at the next level in MasterCard’s Hackathon in Silicon Valley, California on December 5-7.

MasterCard will fly the team to Silicon Valley to compete, where they will also have an opportunity to tour the Napa Valley and San Francisco. MasterCard will sponsor the team’s stay in a five-star hotel, pay for their meals for the three days, provide them with learning opportunities, and introduce them to programmers and software designers from Google, MasterCard, Facebook and Twitter.

The team got together because of each member’s personal desire to develop and create apps. Flanders and Erickson had both done some research about the contest over the summer. When they came back to school they formed a team, which was joined by Tarnow.

They also invited Dutro to join them in the Hackathon. With his extensive experience in computer science and programming, Dutro provided the students with guidance in the fields they were less familiar with.

Erickson, Flanders, Tarnow, and Dutro met the last member of their team at Hackathon. “Smith […] ended up integrating very well with the team. The fact that everyone else on the team was a developer [let] Smith […use] his business, finance and economics skills,” said Erickson. Smith was able to bridge the gap between computer science and business—an important part of the requirements for Hackathon.

During the St. Louis regional contest, competitors had exactly 24 hours to code against 20 teams. In the end, the team presented its mobile app prototype, named “FanFare,” to a panel of judges made up of professional software developers and programmers.

According to the Masters of Code website, ten teams from each regional competition will meet at a final Silicon Valley Hackathon. They will compete against each other and MasterCard’s elite team of hackers for first place overall.

Flanders, a computer science and engineering major, said, “We didn’t go to win. [Hackathon] is a good way to learn how to program practically and our goal was [to try] new things. It’s a great opportunity for students to improve their computer skills and to have real world experience.”

Dutro believes that Hackathon was a good experience for these students and Principia as whole. “It’s a fantastic experience for students outside the classroom, because it’s not only [students] building an actual product—they’re [also] competing [as a] team. [This] helps them build their skills through partnerships, [as well as] build friendships, which helps them to get to the top.”

Erickson, a computer science and business major, said “It’s a great opportunity to go to this event because you acquire different essential components in programming. It’s a valuable experience to put these pieces together and build a product because it gives each piece a purpose. Other people could learn from it and think outside the box. […] You should have courage, be willing to cooperate beyond your own skills, and to incorporate your skill sets with others. Principia should […] encourage other students to compete in this MasterCard contest.”