Recently, there was a Friday night where campus was quieter than usual. Why, you may ask? Instead of being out and about, many students were clustered around white boards and computer screens with various gadgets strewn about. This was a result of the 5C Hackathon, an event in which teams sacrifice a night of sleep to see what cool things they can build in a short amount of time.
In a hackathon, nothing is off-limits. Teams can choose to build phone apps, experiment with a new type of technology, or something entirely different. The primary purpose of a hackathon is to build something fun and interesting under unconventional circumstances. Prizes are awarded for innovation and completeness of projects, but the best part of the event is learning what everyone else was capable of building in the same time frame.
At the 5C Hackathon, teams from all five colleges packed themselves into a ballroom at 7PM for the opening ceremonies. After a brief explanation of the rules, the teams shot off in all directions to claim their territory for the long night. Participants ranged from beginners (those with less than a year of CS experience) in intro CS courses to advanced students majoring in the subject. Regardless of experience level, all the teams were able to get help from the hackathon organizers or judges at any point throughout the night. The judges were selected from major tech companies sponsoring the event, so they were able to provide plenty of guidance to uncertain teams.
The teams next saw each other again around midnight (or before then at the table of endless free food) for a break. This came in the form of a delicious grilled cheese food truck, specially hired to cater the event and reenergize teams starting to feel the lateness of the hour. After that, it was nothing but coding, with the exception of the “2 minute run” at 3AM and Krispy Kreme Donuts at 5AM. Seconds afterward, or so it seemed, 7AM rolled around to find most teams gathered in an auditorium with various degrees of fatigue and triumph written across their faces.
Though the coding was finished, the best part of the hackathon was still to come: presentations. Each of the fifty-ish teams of up to four people had a minute to demonstrate their project in front of the other teams and the judges. The projects ranged from silly (a game involving an adorable pig wandering around to pick up trash) to practical (web apps allowing the user to preorder purchases at on-campus eateries). Once all was said and done, the winners were announced and closing remarks were made. The overall winner was a streamlined iPhone app that analyzed the user’s location and played music by local artists off of SoundCloud. The winner of the popularity award used face detection algorithms and a laptop camera to allow a user to play Tetris by moving their head (leaning to one side moved the block over, while an open mouth rotated the piece).
At 10AM, the 5C Fall Hackathon finally concluded, with most involved stumbling off to bed for a well-deserved rest. Hackathons are always a great way for people to explore their creativity and get time to mess around with technologies they might not otherwise be able to. Having a hackathon on campus is an incredible way to be inspired by fellow students and bond with teammates over an unforgettable, sleepless experience.
Until next time! I’ll have more pictures, I promise. Enjoy the start of the holiday season!