PennApps fall 2013 TokBox winners: Will Crichton, Dillon Lareau, Patrick Xia, and Philip Garrison

A few weeks ago on September 6, 2013, a thousand students congregated at UPenn from all over the world, laptops out and ready to code. It was one of the largest student run hackathon in history. Out of the thousand, 4 sophomore students from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) rose up to the top to win the “Best Hack That Makes Life So Easy” prize by Venmo, “Best Cloud-Connected Hack” prize by Microsoft, and our prize, “Best Use of TokBox API”.

The team of 4 who developed Classity from start to finish in 48 hours are students from CMU who have never been to a hackathon before. They chose to attend PennApps as their first hackathon because of its notability and proximity to CMU. Prior to the start of the hackathon, they had no idea what they were going to build and the idea to improve online education by making it more interactive came after throwing out many other ideas. Their roles on this project naturally fell in place from their existing skill sets and interest, making them a formidable hackathon team.


Will Crichton is a self taught web developer with significant web development experience and helped architect the back-end and crafted the user interface of Classity. He is a big fan of web development in general and his projects usually involves MV* frameworks like BackboneJS. Given the choice, Will would use either Go or Python powered web development frameworks for his back end. In his free time, Will likes to tinker with 2D and 3D technologies using Canvas and WebGL. His favorite class is Computer Systems where he programmed a working command line shell, a basic proxy server, and a working memory allocator (i.e. C’s malloc).

Dillon Lareau comes from a hardware background and even though Classity did not involve any hardware, he rose up to the challenge and integrated powerpoint functionality into Classity by learning about Google Drive API, finding ways to show individual slides, controlling slides, and synching slides across all of the students. Dillon loves puzzles and participates in coding challenges like Google Games and Dropbox coding challenges. His favorite class is also Computer Systems, where he gets to learn the lower levels of a computer like memory allocation, learn to exploit code to better protect your own code, and learn how to write a web proxy from scratch. In the future, he’d like to play with technologies that integrates hardware with the web.

Patrick Xia prefers the theoretical aspects of computer science and until this hackathon he had no prior knowledge of JavaScript. However, Classity needed a whiteboard so Patrick picked up the task. He learned the language and implemented a simple, infinite whiteboard using Paper.js. After his initial dose of JavaScript, Patrick plans to dedicate more of his free time to learning more about APIs and web development frameworks.

Philip Garrison is a Math and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) student and a JavaScript ninja at the same time. He is responsible for the node.js/ backend for Classity because he loves JavaScript and all of its functional programming goodness. He finds the underscore library extremely helpful for JavaScript projects. Currently, Philip is potentially working on a long-awaited update to his Android application. When he is not programming, Philip satisfies his love for puzzles by participating for math competitions and his favorite class at CMU is a math class dedicated to preparing students for Putnam competitions.

Here’s a short trailer of what they had built in 48 hours:

Without any prior hackathon experience, Will Crichton, Dillon Lareau, Patrick Xia, and Philip Garrison came together, learned new things, and worked together to rise to the top. Congratulations!