NYU Shanghai Students' "Discuss" App Wins Global Hackathon

May 20 2015

After three thrilling days on NYU’s campuses in New York, Shanghai, and Abu Dhabi from April 10-12, HackNYU crowned NYU Shanghai’s student project “Discuss” (see short video) as the winner of its first Global Hackathon.

The winning team of Omer Cohen (Physics major), Fernando Medina (Business and Finance major), Alexandru Grigoras (Computer Science major), and Justin Scholar (junior Tisch film major) were among approximately 400 students competing to create an application that serves higher education and enhances the learning experience. Speaking for his team, Cohen said, “We hope that winning the hackathon will serve as a launchpad for making a positive impact on how people learn.”

The competition happened in two stages. The first “local” stage took place on each campus, where local judges awarded prizes to three top winners. At NYU Shanghai, professors Keith Ross, Lena Scheen, Zheng Zhang, and founder of ChinesePod and OpenLanguage Jenny Zhu, who judged the local competition, awarded the top prize to “Discuss.” Second place went to "uMail," a Chrome extension that analyzes and filters email, while “Got-It,” a classroom communication system that allows a student to anonymously request further explanation, won third.

The three winning picks—”Discuss,” “TranslateTube,” and “Alloy” from Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, and New York, respectively—proceeded to the final “global” stage of the hackathon, where the NYU Shanghai team won the overall competition. The winning project had to be deemed technically impressive, demonstrating the best use of data, outstanding design, and, ultimately, the most viability.

The “Discuss” app offers a medium for students taking the same classes to form small groups and read required materials together, while highlighting, annotating, and exchanging notes in real-time. It features embedded discussion boards for comments and questions from students and their professors.

“The Global Hackathon was an absolutely unique experience, only possible within NYU’s global network,” said Alexandru Grigora, one of HackNYU's organizers. “For 24 hours, hundreds of students, separated by thousands of miles and several timezones, worked together to create some truly innovative products that may one day revolutionize the way we think about education. We could not have asked for more.”