"A push-up to $6.5K USD": William Wang wins big at ETHDenver’s 2024 Hackathon

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

William Wang, a third-year undergraduate student, earned one of the top prizes at ETHDenver, held from February 23 to March 3, 2024.

 ETHDenver is a blockchain-focused conference that organizes panel discussions, workshops, and bootcamps. It is dubbed as the largest and longest-running Ethereum event in the world—with this year drawing 20,000 attendees from 120 countries. Their biggest event is #BUIDLathon: a hackathon where attendees team up to build their own blockchain projects.

The teams must submit their projects under five tracks such as Infrastructure + Scalability or Identity + Privacy + Security. During the first round, they will present their project to a panel of 50 community judges, who will select three winners from each track. The top 15 finalists are invited to ETHDenver’s closing ceremony and pitch to a panel of five celebrity judges. Each judge will choose one winner from each track.

William Wang and Xavier D'Mello posing with their awards

William Wang (middle) and Xavier D'Mello (right) each received $6,500 USD in awards | Photo credit: Tim Gillies for ETHDenver

Wang and his long-time collaborator Xavier D'Mello, a third-year Computer Science undergraduate student at Wilfrid Laurier University, created BeFit. Their web app is inspired by BeReal, a social media app that prompts users to post a picture of themselves at a random time within a certain interval. Users can only see their friends’ posts, once they upload their photo. BeFit takes a similar approach but replaces photo-taking with push-ups.

“We've had discussions on and off about taking the spontaneity aspect of BeReal and applying it to something else. But we never fully fleshed out this idea,” says Wang. “One of Xavier’s ideas was like proof of productivity, such as taking a photo of you completing work. When we were brainstorming for the hackathon, we settled on this idea of a proof of fitness because we thought it would be funny just to have people go down on the ground and start doing 10 push-ups during a conference or a demo.”

Instead, users would be randomly notified to perform 10 push-ups. BeFit uses a machine-learning model, Tensorflow, that coordinates with the user’s webcam to verify and count their push-ups. Upon completion, the users are rewarded with non-fungible tokens (NFTs). They can also see their friends’ performance and send them encouraging messages or hold them accountable. In the future, Wang hopes to launch BeFit as a mobile app and incorporate other exercises such as planks, jumping jacks, or lunges. With declining global health rates, this revolutionary app can motivate people to stay active with community support and rewards.

A video of the duo’s pitch during the closing ceremony. Their energy and passion prompted one of the judges to perform 10 burpees!

More than 200 projects were submitted for the first round, with a prize pool of around $950,000. Yet, BeFit won both rounds. Many of the attendees and judges were impressed by the duo’s engaging and passionate pitch and the app’s innovative way of weaving fitness with social elements.

For winning the first and second rounds, Wang and D'Mello each received cash prizes amounting to $3,000 USDC and a VIP ticket for next year’s ETHDenver valued at $2,500 USD. They received additional cash prizes such as the Story Protocol: Best Registered Meme on Story Protocol and the ETHStorage: Build a Decentralized Social Network Using Web3 and EthStorage. Each of their awards is valued up to $6,500 USD, which is about $8,800 CAD.

“The most rewarding part was not just winning first in the eyes of the judges, but also winning first in terms of community voting,” says Wang. During ETHDenver’s Community Fair, BeFit earned the highest number of SPORK, which is a community patronage token. They received 95,210 SPORK out of a total prize pool of 1 million SPORK. This achievement exemplified that many people found BeFit to be useful and effective. “Over 50 hackers and judges [joined] our waitlist, wanting to use our product.”

Wang met D'Mello at Waterloo Blockchain, a student-run organization based at the University of Waterloo. Together, they have attended several hackathons in Waterloo and New York. Although Wang has competed in more than 50 hackathons, ETHDenver marks his biggest win. He enjoys attending hackathons because it connects him with passionate people, “who want to change the world and make an impact.”

Currently, Wang runs Ontario Hackers, a discord server that informs its members about upcoming hackathons. It also helps them form teams and arrange travel and hotel accommodations. Wang hopes that Ontario Hackers, which has more than 900 members, serves as a resource for beginners.

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