BCA Students on Hackathons

Remington Kim, Writer

MHacks, a student run hackathon hosted by the University of Michigan. Source: https://news.umich.edu/mhacks-sparks-national-college-hackathon-movement/

Competitions where programmers, engineers, and builders come together to create a real working software or hardware program all in the span of 24 hours have become increasingly popular in recent years. These events, known as hackathons, take place all over the world every weekend at high schools, colleges, and community centers.

Competitors can build any product they wish, and can submit these products, known as hacks, to judges to be judged. Prizes for the best hacks can range from electronic gadgets to a million dollars at the largest of hackathons.

BCA students are no strangers to hackathons. Gabe Ashkenazi, a freshman in ATCS, recently attended hackPHS, a hackathon held at Princeton High School in Princeton, New Jersey. “It was a new experience for me to be dropped off at a place I’ve never been to with just a laptop and a group of friends.” Gabe added that  he enjoyed the experience because of the teamwork and creativity skills he gained.

Ashkenazi’s teammate at the event, ATCS freshman Tal Ledeniov, said, “It was a very chill and friendly environment. I definitely will be going back.” His favorite parts were bonding with random strangers, making jokes, and playing Super Smash Bros at 1 am. Their team created a Python game hosting website using HTML, CSS, and Python.

Audrey Kim and Melissa Ozcan, both juniors in ATCS, worked on a project involving a Dragon Board at a different hackathon. A Dragon Board is a piece of hardware that a computer can communicate with. “We take hackathons as more of a learning opportunity than a developing opportunity,” Melissa said.

For those like Melissa and Audrey, hackathons also hold many lessons and lectures where students can go to learn a new skill or technology. For example, there might be lessons on backend programming, introductions to a programming language, or working with a professional company.

Hackathons can also be great places to develop your career. With so much talent present at hackathons nowadays, it’s no surprise that companies are heavily involved in these competitions. There are always lots of sponsors at events who give out prizes and look for possible future interns or workers. Facebook, Google, and Salesforce are some notable companies that have even hosted their own hackathons in search of new, undiscovered talent.

Although Hackathons are competitions meant for learning, building, and recruiting, many students will confirm that they are also places for socializing and having fun. Hackathons also host video game tournaments, volleyball games, and various other activities during the span of the 24 hours. This gives contestants a chance to take a break from their hard work and to enjoy themselves. Most importantly to many, there are always tons of snacks and drinks to have while working on the hacks.

“The best part of a hackathon is the energy!” Audrey said. “Staying up until 4 am and seeing everyone working, drinking soylent, coffee, and downing Awake Bars by the masses is so chaotic and appropriate for computer science.”

Hackathons provide energetic and exciting opportunities to build, learn, and bond with others all over the course of one weekend. Melissa calls them a 10/10 experience.

BCA’s very own annual hackathon, hackBCA, is set to take place on February 13th-14th 2020.