TU student wins HackUMBC; Creates “Seizure Helper” app as epilepsy aid
By Keri Luise, Staff Writer
Photo by Keri Luise/ The Towerlight
Seizures were a constant risk in the life of Towson sophomore computer science major Santhosh Ramachandran between the ages of 10 and 17 as he struggled with epilepsy.
Every place he went, school, home, and other public places, were the environments in which he would be scared he couldn’t get the help he needed when a seizure hit. But he had an instinct that the seizures were coming a few seconds before they happened, so Ramachandran worked with this instinct and his skills in software to make sure people with epilepsy got the immediate help they needed.
“I wanted to do something that would let people know that I’m going to have a seizure so that they can help by calling 911 or coming to the location,” Ramachandran said. “So, what I made was an Android app called Seizure Helper.”
Ramachandran’s app uses an armband that senses the motion of your hand before having a seizure. The armband recognizes the gesture and alerts the app that a seizure is about to occur. The app then sends a message to someone of your preference, either an emergency contact or 911 to make sure help is on the way for emergencies.
Ramachandran won first place at HackUMBC for developing this Android app with Jaganathan Velraj, a freshman computer engineering major at UMBC.
“Santhosh is an idea guy,” said Towson Software Engineering Club President Mazlow Cohen. “He has ideas and sees them through. I am not surprised he won the UMBC Hackathon.”
The top computer science students who are accepted into these hackathon competitions travel from all over the country to compete in 24-hour tech innovation marathons and collaborate on new ideas to build mobile, web, and hardware projects. Facebook, T. Rowe Price, JP Morgan, GitHub, the NSA and others sponsor the event.
“Hackathons are a platform where we can learn and execute new skills,” Velraj said. “As computer science and engineering students, we need to be updated with technology and software in order to succeed in this field, and this is one of the platforms where students can get interest to update themselves with new technology from their peers and or other teams.”
When Ramachandran first started at hackathons, he didn’t know much of anything about mobile development. He wanted to create something to help people with epilepsy but had to gain more experience first.
“Learning something in class never helps rather than doing a real project,” he said.
But he learned so much more and gained the experience he needed to make his mobile app after participating in a few hackathons.
“I’m most proud of that fact that I solved a real problem, because at most hackathons people just do something that they think is cool, but I was proud that I made something that really people will use it in the future if I make it perfect,” Ramachandran said.
Ramachandran had some challenges along the way, and still is encouraged to develop the app to make it the best it can be.
“The most challenging part was connecting the armband hardware to the app because I never used hardware, I’ve only used software,” Ramachandran said.
He hopes to develop an armband that will be more accurate with the motion senses.
“The armband that we used did not sense motion like 100% accurately, it was just like 80%,” he said. “So, if we get a better thing that would work perfectly, it would really be a huge solution for a lot of people with epilepsy.”
After winning first place at HackUMBC, Velraj is excited to “gain more experience in turning concepts into actions and build our network through teammates.”
“We will get external recognition, and this will increase our employability,” Velraj said.
Ramachandran grew up around coding and has come to love working with it. His dream is to work with Goggle one day, but for now he is just looking into internships and finding any ways he can keep himself involved.
“My dad, he’s a software engineer, so he introduced me to coding, and I loved coding a lot,” he said. “It was so much fun solving different problems every day. That’s basically why I chose computer science.”
On campus, Ramachandran stays involved as a member of the Technology Club and as the Vice President of the Software Engineering Club. He attends weekly Software Engineering Club workshops and helps fellow students with mobile development specifically.
“When I attended the mobile development workshop, that was the one that really encouraged me to learn more,” Ramachandran said. “Other than that, I also lead the Android project initiative which also is helping them to teach, so, while helping them to teach I also learn a lot. So, these things helped me a lot to learn a lot about mobile development.”
As Vice President of the club, Ramachandran wants to broaden it to bring in a more diverse crowd of students.
“We only have a few members who attend a few workshops, so I want to make it more accessible for everyone,” Ramachandran said. “People feel like it’s really complicated, and they will not understand, but that’s why I want to make it accessible for everyone so that we will get more audience and that’s what, as a leader, I can think of.”
Cohen appreciates Ramachandran’s commitment to the club and is confident in his fellow software peer.
“He has been instrumental in developing the software engineering club,” Cohen said. “His biggest impact has been leading students to develop mobile apps, specifically using Android.”
Ramachandran has always stood out as a student to Cohen, especially in “his genuine love and fascination with technology, whether using a new Android tool or a Google application.”
“His passion for technology is infectious and has inspired myself and other students,” Cohen said. “His hard work and dedication on leading the team and helping students learn mobile development is commendable.”
Through Cohen, Ramachandran learned of more opportunities off campus and became strongly invested in hackathon events to gain a stronger coding experience. Ramachandran has now attended three hackathons, one at John Hopkins and two at UMBC and hopes to soon compete in the HackPrinceton competition.
“Santhosh is very driven and is doing the right things to have a successful career in software development,” Cohen said. “He takes the initiative on new projects and has inspired me to continue working on my own projects. He is an incredibly hard worker and has a love for learning new technologies. I am lucky to learn from him and work with him in the club.”