Seniors take first place at annual JHacks hackathon with “Too Long; Didn’t Watch”

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UPDATE: This article has been edited from the original version, which was posted March 13 at 7:44 a.m. See corrections at the bottom of the article.

By Jeremy Bell
For Mitzpeh

Two seniors won at the third annual JHacks hackathon this weekend, a competition where student hackers put their creativity to work by developing unique projects within 18 hours at the Rosenbloom Hillel Center.

Senior computer science majors Ephraim Rothschild and Akash Magoon took first place when they created “Too Long; Didn’t Watch,” a program that processes YouTube audio in order to identify and timestamp multiple topics of interest.

Before hacking began this year, Rothschild said he wanted to fix “if you watched a movie or video and you don’t remember where something happened.” He went on to say, ”I want to be able to say ‘scene where this abstract thing happened.’”

The pair also won the inaugural JHacks two years ago after creating “Intelliflight,” an application to pick flights based on historic flight data.

Other projects included a clothing donation iPhone app, a tweet analyzer for mental health and a recycling bin motion sensor that kept a leaderboard of frequently used bins.


Students were hard at work during the third annual JHacks hackathon. Jeremy Bell/Mitzpeh.

In second place, freshmen Matanya Loewenthal, Dani Smith and two others created “Klothe,” a clothing donation application that allows users to exchange clothes for the price of shipping. Asked how much of a shock his team’s second place finish was, Loewenthal, a computer engineering major, said, “A little bit after we saw what some of the other people created like implementing a neural network in less than 24 hours.”

“I think ours won second place just because it had a cool idea and focus,” Loewenthal said.

When asked about Klothe’s future plans, the team said they were going to leave the code open to the public.

“Once we’re all multimillionaires, we’ll have the funding to really get a good team going and have them take care of it,” joked Smith, a computer science major.

In third place, WebMH used machine learning to analyze the mental health of Twitter handles. In their demonstration, they determined one of the judges was healthy.

According to event organizers, hackathons allow people to create any programming project, usually within a weekend, but traditionally occur during Shabbat. JHacks began after Shabbat and drew in around 100 participants.


Mentor Dan Eckert checks in on some teams competing in the hackathon. Jeremy Bell/Mitzpeh.

“I feel that it is important that there is event that is open to all different religious restrictions,”  said sophomore Avi Passy, the co-vice president of operations for JHacks.

Passy, an electrical engineering major, said JHacks is one of the few hackathons that give an opportunity to allow Jewish students, who would be otherwise barred because of the Sabbath, to participate in the hackathons.

Many of the hackathon’s organizers were not hackers, including JHacks President Yonit Ollech, a senior mechanical engineering major.

“When the organization was first founded it was a couple of my friends doing it, and I thought it was very cool,” Ollech said. “We’re about hacking a better world together.”

JHacks had major improvements from the previous year, said Ollech. She was surprised to hear the event drew in some participants coming from Syracuse, among other colleges.

“This year we tried to really up our social media game,” said junior computer science major Benji Cooper, vice president for marketing and campus recruitment. He said the board reached out to different people on campuses and found people who were interested in advertising JHacks around the country.

Winners (behind the table) Rothschild (left) and Magoon (right) present their project to the judges in the first round.​ Jeremy Bell/Mitzpeh.

In traditional hackathons, hackers are able to borrow different equipment like a motion sensor, a mind reader or a miniature computer known as a Raspberry Pi. For the first time, JHacks was able to provide this equipment through HackWare when one the event sponsors, Dan Eckert, put the organizers into contact with the company.

“Dan is the man. I’m required to say that,” Passy joked, calling Eckert an “invaluable resource.” Eckert also helped the event by hosting a workshop on networking, mentoring hackers, and also sponsoring through his company Drakontas Consulting.

JHacks will be back in 2019, and Passy said there was more room for improvement.

“Some of our sponsors felt that they hadn’t been getting what their money’s worth was, and we didn’t realize that until it was too late to correct it,” Passy said. However, he was optimistic about fixing this next year when he will be president of JHacks.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article unintentionally implied that Dan Eckert provided the Raspberry Pi equipment himself. He put JHacks organizers into contact with the company. Drakontas was previously misspelled.

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