UConn AI Club wins at the 2022 HackHarvard Competition 

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During the weekend of Oct. 14-16, the University of Connecticut Artificial Intelligence Club attended the HackHarvard 2022 event, where four members won the “Best Educational Hack” award. The 36-hour event is a free hackathon event hosted by Harvard University students. 

The UConn AI Club members beat out the fierce competition at the event to win among teams from Ivy League universities around the nation, according to Noel Snieckus, a computer science, engineering and physics student at UConn. 

“We got placed as Best Educational Hack, there’s only one of those awarded throughout the entire competition,” Snieckus said. “There were only 16 awards given out in total out of 160 teams and 500 people. We won one of the awards that was given out by Harvard itself. There were only six Harvard-sponsored awards in total.” 

The four UConn AI Club members who attended the event had to work hard to re-invent their club after COVID-19, according to computer science and pre-med student Alexander Solod. 

“we all joined the artificial intelligence club’s executive board last year. since it was the first real year being back from covid, us four had to pretty much revive the club. that included appointing the e-board, getting new members to join and getting an advisor all from scratch.”

Alexander Solod

“We all joined the Artificial Intelligence Club’s Executive Board last year,” Solod said. “Since it was the first real year being back from COVID, us four had to pretty much revive the club. That included appointing the E-Board, getting new members to join and getting an advisor all from scratch.” 

The UConn AI Club created its project around increasing public participation for clinical trials with incentive through being rewarded Pi cryptocurrency and an easy and organized experience while participating in trials. Solod explained this and why the AI Club’s project is important. 

“The project we ended up building was a proof of concept for a crypto-based incentive system for people enrolling in clinical trials,” Solodle said. “Clinical trials are one of the most important parts of the research process, but unfortunately there are many reasons and times when people don’t want to participate.” 

Their project mapped out everything to make it easy for people to participate in clinical trials while also getting Pi cryptocurrency in exchange, according to Solodle. 

Nachiked Deo is a computer science and engineering graduate student who expressed the intensity and fear that he felt before their win. 

“It was scary at first because there were a lot of people there from all different universities,” Deo said. “We went to the competition over the weekend, so we had to create the project in a very short amount of time. Usually, it would have taken weeks to build.” 

“we got placed as best educational hack, there’s only one of those awarded throughout the entire competition. there were only 16 awards given out in total of 160 teams and 500 people. we won one of the awards that was given out by harvard itself. there were only six harvard-sponsored awards in total.”

Noel Snieckus

Manik Soomro, a computer science student at UConn, explained that while other clubs and teams from UConn participated in the event, the AI Club outperformed them too. 

“There were other UConn teams at the event, but we were the only ones to win an award,” Soomro said. 

Beyond the competition, the AI Club meets regularly at UConn. Solod explained what he believes the benefits of joining the AI Club are. 

“The club is meant to be a space for people to learn more about artificial intelligence and get members introduced to research opportunities as well as fostering a general appreciation and understanding of AI,” Solod said. 

Snieckus went on to emphasize that the AI Club is not only for students with AI training. 

“And it’s not anyone who wants to find out more about AI or coding,” Snieckus said. “Even if you don’t know how to program, we have people here that can help assist and teach.” 

The UConn AI Club team beat out teams from Harvard, MIT and Brown, Solod said. 

“This will be the second time that the UConn AI Club has placed in a hackathon event, and we’ve only participated in two. It’s also the first time UConn has won at Hack Harvard,” Snieckus said. 

Solod said that he and fellow AI students are teaching CSE 4095 next semester. It is a deep dive into transformer architecture. The class will be fully student-taught and is open to anyone. 

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