Carnegie Mellon University
December 11, 2015

Student Team Wins Grand Prize at Facebook Global Hackathon

By Joe Lyons / 412-268-7298 /

A Carnegie Mellon University student team won the $10,000 grand prize at the 2015 Facebook Global Hackathon by creating a new digital product that supports breaking news 24/7 with real-time eyewitness videos from around the world.

During the course of 24 hours, Team Tartanium developed, a website designed to respond to how news distribution has changed. With the rise of social media platforms like Instagram, news can be spread more quickly than ever before.

Hackathon WinnersSumanth Pandugula, Nikhil Choudhary, Tiffany Jiang and Avi Romanoff (l-r)) were proud to bring top honors home to CMU from Facebook's Global Hackathon. lets users track developing stories around the world in real-time through videos taken by direct witnesses. The site, which is live, currently simulates what users would see the night of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks.

“This hack idea came out of the frustration of not knowing where to find raw, unedited footage taken by those who were experiencing world news first-hand,” said team member Tiffany Jiang.

The competition, which took place over three days in late November at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, featured 78 finalists representing 21 teams from 11 countries.

Members of Team Tartanium represented four of CMU’s colleges and schools. In addition to Jiang, a sophomore design and human-computer interaction major, team members were Avi Romanoff, a sophomore psychology and human-computer interaction major, and Nikhil Choudhary, a junior electrical and computer engineering major. Sumanth Pandugula, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago who spent the fall 2014 semester as an exchange student at CMU, also was a member of the team.

The students earned a spot to compete in the finals after winning the Facebook API award at TartanHacks, CMU’s student-run hackathon, in February.

As Instagram videos are uploaded, users see markers on a world map in their Web browser. Hovering over the markers allows users to see recent hashtags people have used at that location. Clicking on a hashtag brings up a gallery of relevant Instagram videos, in order of most recent upload, in an easy-to-view 3x3 grid format.

“We made it easy to send important videos that feature built-in social share functions. We want to empower the user to go ahead and turn videos viral by sharing through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, email and more,” Jiang said.

The team’s hope is to expand in the future to include videos from other social networking platforms like Vine.

“I feel immensely proud to be able to bring home glory for CMU,” Choudhary said. “This was an event where competition was fierce. It was not just limited to the best in this country but from all over the world.

“It’s truly humbling for Facebook to recognize the merits of our hack idea,” he said.

In addition to the $10,000 grand prize, each team member received an Oculus Rift developer kit.

Find out more and watch video on the Hackathon's Facebook page.