Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Intel Interns Compete In A Hackathon for Mathematics

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 25, 2014

 

IntelHackathon

Interns across Intel campuses in Arizona, California and Oregon participated in a two-day hackathon weekend, where the theme was "code for good." Interns were tasked with creating a game that was both fun to play and taught mathematics.

By Intel Free Press

Every summer, students from around the world take part in Intel's highly sought after internship program, where students gain working experience at a major technology company and Intel taps into young, brilliant minds. It's also an opportunity to learn about Intel through training and networking events that supplement actual project work.

Math Jump

Created by Jennifer Qian and Carlos Reyes, Math Jump is a simple game inspired by the platformer genre. Players run along a side-scrolling plane and jump to catch numbers and operation signs, scoring points upon catching the correct answer.

A rising senior at Cornell University, Qian is majoring in electrical and computer engineering and minoring in informational science. At Intel's Hudson, Massachusetts, site, Qian is a pre-silicon validation engineer for DDRIO team, working with validation engineers and logic designers to solve test failures.

Reyes, a rising senior at Duke University studying computer science and chemistry, works in Intel's Internet of Things Group, writing software tools for generating PCI and MCA error injections on Simics models of next-generation platforms.

"I decided to look around at different styles of 2-D games and was playing a game called Temple Run when I got the idea for Math Jump. Temple Run is quite different overall, but the aspect that inspired Math Jump was the fact that you tap the screen and jump (while running) to collect items. This led to the jumping of the character in Math Jump to collect pieces of an equation," explained Reyes.

"From that point, I decided that it would be fun to have users string together their own equations and receive higher allocations of points when they solved equations involving bigger numbers (which are generally harder, think 7*8 vs 9+2) in addition to a base score of 10."

The term hackathon suggests a marathon of hacking, or coding, but producing a working model in a short amount of time requires teamwork and practical division of labor.

"We divided up the work by interest, where I am very interested in programming and [Jennifer] is interested in product management," said Reyes.

"We both work in the Hudson, Massachusetts, site so it was convenient to communicate. I liked working with Carlos on this project because we both respect each other's ideas and we have common interests in math games," added Qian. "Since our contributions to the project don't really overlap, it worked out well that we get full control on our parts."

"I loved working on the hackathon project. I do a lot of server-side JavaScript development, but I rarely get the opportunity to work on front-end JavaScript, which the hackathon allowed me to learn more about and open my eyes to," Reyes said.

"I thought that the theme was awesome and I developed Math Jump to help make learning quick arithmetic more fun. I plan on further developing Math Jump in the near future."

Graph to the Future

Two of the hackathon teams thought that graphing and equations would make for good grounds for gaming. Graph to the Future, developed by Steven Reed, Zach Schaffter and Victoria Worrall, laid stars on a four-quadrant graph and players had to collect stars scattered along the graph by inputting the correct equation.

Hero of Graphs

Hero(graphs), developed by Richard Li, Sami Mian and Daniel Roberts, kept its graphs to a single quadrant, but players are challenged with tricky obstacles that could block a direct path toward the target.

"Hero(graphs) (pronounced 'hero of graphs') came from the idea that graphing skills are often underdeveloped throughout grades K-12. Students often do not have access to graphing calculators and find it difficult to utilize the devices' graphing capabilities when they do have access to them," explained Roberts, a recent electrical engineering undergrad from Northern Arizona University, now in his second internship at Intel.

"Hero(graphs) is meant to help students develop an intuitive feeling of the concepts of continuous and piecewise linear and non-linear functions, and how mathematical equations translate into graphical behavior so that students can be better prepared to apply this kind of analysis as they progress into higher levels of math (where this kind of intuition becomes important)."

The hackathon is an optional activity for the Intel interns, but Roberts found it more than just another project to add to his CV.

"I thought the hackathon had a great purpose because I believe there is a lot of good that can come from the integration of technology into earlier stages of education. Intel's hackathon event gave me the opportunity to further develop my skills, to learn new skills, and to contribute positively in education," said Roberts. "Richard was the only one who had participated in hackathons before, so after finding out about the Intel hackathon, Richard got me and Sami excited to give it a shot.

"The event itself was great because although it was difficult work and permitted very little sleep, it just felt like working on a cool project with friends."

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