Kevin Sheng (EE ’18)
On the evening of Friday, November 7, over two dozen Cooper students gathered in the New Academic Building to spend all night hard at work. While this may seem like a common trend among the student body, these students weren’t there to study for midterms or to complete mountains of homework. Instead, they gathered in the Menschel Boardroom for a night of food, programming, and fun. Code B, a mini-hackathon sponsored by Bloomberg and organized by Cooper graduates, began on Friday night and lasted until the following morning.
Participants began streaming in at around 6:00 PM, greeted by free Bloomberg swag and Chipotle. After they had all gathered and divided into teams made up of up to three members, Christopher Hong (EE ’13) explained the objectives and rules of the competitions. Unlike typical open-ended hackathons, this “uniquely Bloomberg” competition instead had each team work towards one goal: making money. The objective of each team was to develop a program that could trade equity stocks on a simulated stock exchange. “We didn’t come up with a completely new design for something; rather, we were faced with a problem and told to come up with the best solution, making the competition more active compared to other hackathons.” said Eli Soffer (EE ’16).
Starting with $1000, the competitors were to create an algorithm, in any programming language, to automatically purchase and sell 10 individual securities, each with market values updating every second. At the end of a 30 minute period, the team with highest net worth, the combined value of their available cash and owned securities, would be crowned champions. A secondary competition was held to develop a user interface for the stock trading programs. Briefed on the objectives of the competition, the 14 teams began development of their programs, their eyes on the grand prize of either a quadcopter drone or a Playstation 4.
Over the course of the night, the participants participated in a series of test simulations, ranging in length from 10 minutes to the full 30. Fueled by large quantities of food, Red Bull, and adrenaline, each team worked over the next 14 hours to create and optimize their stock trading programs. No two algorithms were the same, each team coming up with their own unique solutions, coded in languages ranging from Python, Java, and C++ to Pascal and MATLAB.
The participants were just as varied as their approaches. For many, this hackathon was a new and novel experience, while for others it was something they had done several times before. Some were there for the free food and swag, some were there just to enjoy the experience, and some were there to win first place, enticed by the idea of their very own drone or PS4. For everyone involved, however, it was a learning experience. Freshman Gordon Su (EE ’18) said “Even though we didn’t win, I learned a lot about programming and finance and met a lot of really cool people.”
At 8:00 AM, the competitors made final adjustments to their programs, and the final round commenced. With music from the Super Smash Bros OST playing in the background, stocks began to exchange hands, and money started to flow. Team Hack Street Boyz, consisting of juniors Eli Soffer and Jason Schmidt (EE ’16), gradually pulled ahead of the pack, building a significant lead over the other teams. Team Team, consisting of Freshmen Shalin Patel (EE ’18), Ross Kaplan (EE ’18), and Gabe Korgood (CE ’18), and Team Rocket, consisting of Mark Mchedlishvili (EE ’17) and Xiangling Kong (EE ’17), also came out strong, fighting each other for the second slot of the leaderboard. Team Team quickly gained an advantage due to their more consistent algorithm, pulling ahead of Team Rocket by a significant margin. Team Vishnu, made up of Gordon Su, Vishnu Kaimal (EE’18) and Kevin Sheng (EE ’18), clawed their way from the bottom up to the fourth place on the leaderboard. Team Werk, featuring Justin Poserio (EE ’16) and Miraj Patel (EE ’16), rounded out the top five. At the end of the 30 minute period, the Hack Street Boyz had amassed $73,759.10. Team Team ended with a net worth of $37,174.90, while Team Rocket, Team Vishnu, and Team Werk finished with $15,958.47, $8,863.37, and $4,765.92 respectively.
The Hack Street Boyz, whose unique algorithm essentially made them into the broker of all trades and allowed them to take advantage of the system and other participants, took home the grand prize, a drone. Team Team and Team Rocket, due to their UI, were both awarded with second place. Christopher Hong, who graduated from Cooper just last year, said “In finance, there are many approaches to succeed and those who succeed strike the perfect balance between strategy, creativity, and skill. Overall, I am very happy with the solutions coded to the problem – Cooper never ceases to amaze!”
Finally, at 9:00 AM, 15 hours later, the competition concluded. Exhausted, the competitors gladly packed up their belongings and went home to their welcoming beds. “It was as much fun as it was educational. I got to program under the pressure of time and physical constraints. I’ve definitely familiarized myself with programming and would like to do it again in the future” said freshman Brenda So (CivE ’18).
The competition was sponsored by Hack@Bloomberg and organized by several Cooper alumni with ties to Bloomberg. Christopher Hong (EE ’13), Stefania Samojlik (ME ’13), John Zhao (EE ’06), Michael Yagliyan (EE ’08), all part of the research and development team at Bloomberg, coordinated the event with the help of Jolie Woodson from the Center for Career Development and others from Bloomberg’s recruiting and R&D teams.