Panthers hack their way to third place in PayPal’s Battle Hack

Photo courtesy of Joshua Martinez.

Irvin Cardenas/Contributing Writer

Two hundred hackers signed up and 30 teams were assembled, but only three teams made it to the top.

PayPal’s Battle Hack in Miami on Aug. 24 was a 24-hour event to “discover the ultimate hackers on earth,” according to the event website.

Team RefreshMiami, composed of young entrepreneurs – including Joshua Martinez, a senior in computer science, and FIU alum Peter Martinez and  University of Virginia alum Brian Breslin – took third place with their idea called PawPal alongside Davide Di Cillo, an Italian technologist and designer who is rooted in the Miami technology scene. is a humanitarian effort tying to remedy the fact that more and more animal shelters are closing down due to underfunding, and those that remain open have increased the number of animals being euthanized due to overcrowding.

The theme of the event was to create an app that helps solve a local problem.

“We wanted to focus on animals,” said Martinez. “Brian Breslin actually rescued his dog from a Labrador Retriever shelter, so we understand that due to the economy a lot of things have been happening poorly for these animals.”

This past July, Miami-Dade administrators sought refuge for dozens of dogs destined to be euthanized because of overcrowding. is a website dedicated to type campaigns for animals. It allows activists to choose a shelter, create a campaign and raise funds for that campaign. All the funds collected go directly to the shelter.

The team’s idea extended beyond PayPal’s hackathon and is soon to be live. It will allow people to create campaigns and donate to shelters using PayPal.

PayPal’s Battle Hack is currently offering $100,000 to the world winner of the event. It is the largest purse yet to be offered during a 24-hour hackathon. The first place winner from each city moves to the final round.

But in Miami, hackathon are not events that have just recently started taking place. Many of these events are currently being hosted throughout the year.

A hackathon is not exactly what it sounds like: most people consider hackathons or hacking as the illegal entry to programs or stealing people’s data.

“A hackathon is basically you coming to the event with nothing,” said Martinez. “Then, in the time allowed, forming a team, creating a product, some sort of technology, a business or even a startup to help solve an issue.”

Martinez said hackathons usually have an idea, a theme or certain set of tools that you need to use in the application you are developing.

These hackathons are usually 24- to 48-hour events where developers and technology enthusiasts gather to develop applications together.

Martinez said that these hackathons are all about endurance and determination: people will start fast, but as time progresses some get tired and leave, some fall asleep and only the strongest pull through and develop their application.

“Hacking doesn’t stop, the timer doesn’t stop. If you want to finish your app, you can’t just go home and sleep,” says Martinez.

Martinez said that one of the really interesting parts about a hackathon is what you actually see later on in the evening.

“What ends up happening is that you’ll see and feel people’s dedication and how strong they feel about their product through how hard they work through the night to get their app completed,” said Martinez.

These “hacking” events alongside co-working spaces such as RefreshMiami, The LAB Miami, Venture Hive and FIU’s AppDojo directed by Stephen Luis, director of Technology and Business Relations, are providing the necessary traction that Miami needs to get ahead as a technological ecosystem.


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