Roughly 350 students chugged caffeine, ate snacks and brainstormed project ideas at the fourth annual HackBU hack-athon this weekend.
The hack-athon began at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Innovative Technologies Complex (ITC) and lasted until 1 p.m. Sunday. During this time, students were able to work either individually or in groups on specific coding projects. The hack-athon consisted of several different competitions, including best beginner hack, best design and funniest hack. Participants were awarded $1,378 in prizes, which included gift cards, swag bags, T-shirts and headphones.
According to Erik Langert, the director of HackBU and a senior double-majoring in computer science and mathematics, the hack-athon gives students a space to explore new ideas and projects and provides a collaborative space where participants can receive feedback.
“At the hack-athon, we try to keep project ideas as open-ended as possible. We want people to be able to work on whatever they want,” Langert said. “There are people here to help you, and you feel like you’re a part of something.”
The hack-athon is organized by HackBU, a student group that hosts weekly coding workshops taught by students. Planning the hack-athon includes booking an ITC building for the weekend, allocating a budget for the event, coordinating with sponsors and buying prizes and food. This takes about nine months, but Langert said the experience is worth the time they put into it.
“The club was started because it’s always fun to teach people new stuff,” Langert said. “There is this really special moment that you have at the hack-athon where you are sleep-deprived and can’t get stuff to work, and you’re surrounded by people who are really smart and are willing to help you and see you succeed. There’s a community and an atmosphere that forms at events like this that you can’t get anywhere else.”
While Binghamton University students dominated the event, students from nine other nearby universities such as Cornell University, Stony Brook University and New York University were also invited to attend. Md Islam, a junior from Rutgers University majoring in computer science, built a web app with his group to help people get better at phone interviews.
“I came to meet new people and build something awesome,” Islam said. “My group is building an app that asks questions on the phone to the user and then directs the user to a website where they can receive feedback on the interview. So far, I’ve met some pretty awesome people here.”
Islam, along with teammates Rohit Kapur, a senior majoring in business administration; Emma Siegel, a senior majoring in graphic design; and Akash Kothawale, a first-year graduate student studying computer science, won first place overall and best design in the competition.
In addition, 12 corporate sponsors, including The Vanguard Group, Citi, BAE Systems and Viacom, held talks, workshops, competitions and challenges during the event. They also gave students feedback on their projects and spoke with participants who were seeking employment.
Participants worked on a variety of projects including a random image generator, a game designed to teach American Sign Language and a website that tells users what milkshakes are available at Nite Owl in the Chenango Champlain Collegiate Center each night. Lydia King, a junior double-majoring in mathematics and economics, said that she was working with a group of people to create a program capable of predicting a Twitter user’s future tweets.
“You will be able to type in a handle and the program will predict future tweets of that user,” King said. “We are having fun and the results should be interesting.”
Emily Bernstein, a sophomore majoring in computer science, said that this was her second time participating in the hack-athon.
“I know a little kid who I wanted to teach to type, but I couldn’t find any free, interesting typing games, so I decided to make my own,” Bernstein said. “This is a great place to work on projects because there are lots of people around to help you.”
Junhson Jean-Baptiste, an undeclared freshman, said that his group was working on a website that acted as a search engine for athletes. He said that this was his first time attending the hack-athon, and that he thought it was a good learning experience.
“I wanted to apply what I’ve learned in class,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I’ve worked on projects of my own, but I’ve never worked with other people, so I wanted to come and have fun.”
Editor’s note: Rohit Kapur is the managing editor of Pipe Dream, and had no involvement with this article’s content.