Driving Innovation to Earn 1st in ShellHacks

Student employees study, work, play and compete online, exemplifying the high-tech and innovative cyber culture of the university’s virtual arm. Recognized for its forward-thinking, next-level tech, FIU Online, the virtual arm of Florida International University is now known for employing staff members whose recent “Galaxy Golf” entry won 1st in ShellHacks, Florida’s largest hackathon.

FIU Online Staff Earn 1st in ShellHacks

Mateo Aguirre and Anthony Olivera, FIU Online Instructional Design Associates, partnered with Steven Reynoso, to compete in this year’s event. Both Aguirre and Olivera are pursuing their bachelor’s degrees in computer science, and are members of Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE), the largest student organization for technology at FIU. Aguirre and Olivera met their ShellHacks partner through participation in UPE.

Galaxy Golf – the Idea

“We’re not really big golf fans, but we were brainstorming, and I said, ‘golf in space,’ and everyone’s eyes lit up,” recounts Anthony. Quickly, the three began dividing up the tasks to create their video game, Galaxy Golf. They submitted it to three categories: Space Force, an open-ended challenge; the First Time Hacker Team Challenge; and the Microsoft Xbox Challenge. The team handily took first place in the Space Force and First Time Hacker Team categories. As a prize, each won a Nintendo Switch and JBL speakers.

FIU Online Student Employees – Anthony Olivera and Mateo Aguirre

“We’ve wanted to compete in ShellHacks since we were freshmen. We entered for our portfolios and for fun and we didn’t think we’d win,” states Olivera with eyes of disbelief. “The wins are already added to my LinkedIn account and resume.”

Aguirre recalls that after many hours and fatigue, he started to doubt the project, but they pressed on for the full 36-hour competition with little sleep.

“The winners were announced on a live stream. Anthony was in the room with me when we saw the first category winner. We went wild and hugged and then we saw the other category and saw we won again—it was awesome!”

Matteo Aguirre

Earning 1st in ShellHacks – Challenging, but Rewarding

To create Galaxy Golf, it took the three students eight hours just to learn how to use the gaming programming, then Aguirre created the levels and visuals in the background while Olivera and Reynoso worked on the “physics” of it, including the gravity of the planets and shooting the golf ball. To help them along, UPE provided a mentor, Todd Albert, says Aguirre, and his instruction was essential for their project development.

ShellHacks 2021 – Galaxy Golf is an intergalactic take on mini-golf. The planets have gravitational fields that attract the ball.

“Working under the super tight time constraints and working to solve it all with no sleep was probably the toughest part of it, we were passing out by the last hour,” reports Reynoso.

As far as what’s next for the team, Olivera says he wants to continue working on Galaxy Golf to perfect the camera angles and design of the game.

“Because of this ShellHacks experience, I want to get into game design now,” states Olivera. Reynoso secured an interview with Microsoft, but if that doesn’t pan out, he plans to continue to work on Galaxy Golf with his team. Aguirre looks forward to working on Galaxy Golf as well. Also, he is interested in pursuing new passions in gaming and computer science.

“This experience showed me that it doesn’t matter what you think; you just have to do it anyways. You can learn anything online,” concludes Aguirre.

If you enjoyed reading this article about FIU Online, check out some of our other recent posts.

Monica Smith, aka “Mon Wordsmith,” is an FIU Online Content Strategist who can quote AP Style like scripture. She makes full use of her English major (creative writing) and her extensive experience in media (newspapers, magazines, books, PR, video, radio, web). She joined the FIU Online Marketing team in 2017 and provides original web content, advertising, marketing and internal and external communications. A world traveler, she loves to cook.

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