Students win top prize in GlobalHack competition

Members of “The Force” accept the $50,000 prize from Jim Eberlin, CEO of TopOpps, for winning the GlobalHack event Feb. 2 at Union Station in St. Louis. (Credit: Photo courtesy of

Seven current and former Washington University in St. Louis students, collectively known as “The Force,” took home the top prize of $50,000 during the GlobalHack event held Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at Union Station in St. Louis.

Eric Elias (BSBA ‘07), senior Arts & Sciences student Kristy Okada, junior fine arts student Leslie Ding, freshman engineering student Du Zhang, junior engineering student SeungJu SJ Lee, sophomore architecture student Daniel Borstelmann and junior engineering student Fangzhou Xiao made up the team.

“I still cannot believe my team and I won,” Okada said. “We were up against professionals with years of experience and other amazingly smart teams with great ideas. What made the win more gratifying was the fact that every individual was from the university. Most of us had never previously met before that day, but we came together, collaborated and created something we are all proud of. Even if we didn’t win, I’m glad to have participated because I made so many new friends and connections.”

GlobalHack’s quarterly hackathon competitions bring together developers, designers and entrepreneurs for 48-hour computer programming events focused on solving a technology-related problem for a St. Louis-based company. Teams compete for a $50,000 cash prize, among other prizes.

Teams were asked to develop a new software solution tool to help sales organizations manage their sales leads within the platform.

The event drew more than 200 participants from St. Louis and beyond. Each team of up to 10 members had 48 hours to build an application on top of the Salesforce1 platform. The title sponsor, TopOpps for this event, makes a $50,000 acquisition offer to the winning team for the prototype that they develop during the weekend-long event.

“The WUSTL team stood apart from the others through the predictive analytics features and built-in recommendation engines that they developed in their solution,” said Clifford Holekamp, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at Olin Business School and one of the judges for the competition.

“It was impressive that this young team was so savvy to the business analytics that sales managers would need in order to make better management decisions,” he said.

The hackathon was sponsored by TopOpps, Bank of America and the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership. Partners were Arch Grants, Cultivation Capital, Lockerdome, Strangeloop, T-Rex, Think Big Partners, Techli and WUSTL’s School of Engineering & Applied Science and the Entrepreneurship Platform at Olin Business School.

“The Force’s success at GlobalHack is indicative of the active and talented computer science community at Washington University,” said junior Shane Carr, president of the university’s Association for Computing Machinery. “Through our weekly Thursday Tech Talks and Code & Cookies programming sessions, we are proud to provide a meaningful lineup of events for the enrichment of students in the computer science program.”

GlobalHack is a nonprofit organization that hosts quarterly hackathon competitions and an annual product competition, with plans to award more than $1 million in prize money annually. The second GlobalHack event will be held in May. Learn more at