Great Valley data analytics students place second at West Chester's hackathon

Three Penn State Great Valley data analytics students at West Chester Unviersity's hackathon

From left: Penn State Great Valley data analytics students Achyuta Nand Jha, Anchal Gupta, and Ishita Daga took second place at a hackathon hosted by West Chester University.

Credit: Anchal Gupta

MALVERN, Pa. — Three Penn State Great Valley students recently utilized their programming and deep learning skills at a 24-hour student coding event at West Chester University to make artificial intelligence more accessible.

Achyuta Nand Jha, Ishita Daga, and Anchal Gupta, students in the Master of Professional Studies in Data Analytics and the Master of Science in Data Analytics programs, learned about the hackathon from one of their professors. Eager to participate, they didn’t know what to expect when they arrived on West Chester’s campus on a Saturday in March.

“We wanted to do something to help people,” Gupta said. “If voice is the future of computing interfaces, what about those who have hearing or speaking disability? All products developed today should be able to be used by us equally, so we created something that would give back to others.”

Starting completely from scratch, they developed Helping Hands, a product that uses Google Cloud Natural Language to translate spoken text into sign language. Their project starts by interpreting a sign language video to text, which is then read aloud through a device like Google Home. Once that device recognizes a spoken response, it converts speech back to sign language, allowing hearing impaired individuals to communicate with smart devices.

To build Helping Hands, the team relied heavily on skills cultivated in their deep learning course, an elective for both graduate programs’ curricula. They also used HTML for front-end development, Python for back-end development, and convolution neural networks to create their product.

The result was impressive: the team received second place in the overall competition in addition to awards for the best use of multimedia and the Google platform.

“This was the first time any of us had participated in a hackathon,” said Gupta. “It was a challenge to deliver an end-to-end product in 24 hours, but working together made it a lot of fun.”