UH Computer Science Students Dominate Code for Good

JP Morgan Chase Hosts Hackathon, Offers Job Opportunities to Winners

Code for Good is an international hackathon where teams compete against each other while providing a computer science related service to non-profit organizations. JPMorgan Chase, the company that hosted the competition, offers winners and other select participants internships or full-time positions depending on their performances.

UH computer science student Vyas Ramankulangara (on left) worked with a team of students representing four universities – UH, California Institute of Technology, Vanderbilt University and The University of Texas at Dallas.

“It’s a hackathon, but JPMorgan Chase invites non-profit organizations to challenge us to solve a problem to help the non-profit build an application for free,” said Vyas Ramankulangara, a computer science junior.

Many UH computer science students participated in the event that had over 2,000 participants nationwide. There were multiple competitions worldwide, including locations like New York and Hong Kong. Though the pool of people was diverse, UH students as a whole dominated the event.

“Most UH teams did pretty well,” said Jesus Del Riego, a computer science senior. “I think every team that won had at least one student from UH. And, any team that won got an offer for an internship or a full-time position.”

Two UH students, Del Riego and Ramankulangara, placed second with their respective teams in the competition. They were placed on separate teams, and both advanced to the final round of judging.

JPMorgan Chase organizes the competition by putting teams together randomly, so team members can learn to work and communicate with people they don’t know.

"They want us to get experience working with new people, like how a job works,” Ramankulangara said. “We saw what skills we had, and based on that, we chose the challenge."

Code for Good consisted of a few workshops and presentations from the non-profits throughout the day to teach the competitors exactly what was needed. There were also fun events like an escape room and time for higher-ups to take students on tours of the company building.

“There were other events like the escape room that were really fun,” Ramankulangara said. “It’s not just a stressful competition; there are fun things to do.”

After the workshops, teams were left to plan and work on their projects throughout the night. They were judged the next day.

“Teams were judged by seven judges, who were employees of JPMorgan Chase,” Del Riego said. “There were several different rounds of judging. For the first one, every team was judged. The judges walked in rotation, teams presented to them, and then they gave each team a rating. The highest rating moved on to the next stage. At that stage, two teams presented in front of everyone. That’s when they chose first and second place.”

Del Riego and Ramankulangara heard about the hackathon through friends who planned to participate and from people who had gotten internships through the event in previous years. Del Riego, who will graduate in Spring 2020, was offered a full-time position after graduation, and Ramankulangara, who will graduate in Fall 2020, was offered an internship.

“Hanging out with other students here at PGH, and communicating with them and networking has helped me,” Ramankulangara said. “I took advantage of being able to network with people from a lot of different places. That’s one thing UH has given me - a big opportunity.”

- Joanne Chavali, Department of Computer Science