HackUMass hosts third annual hackathon

‘Hack UMass is not just about building a hack, it’s an experience with a bunch of different people from different backgrounds’

From the night of Friday, October 23 to Sunday, October 25, students with a knack for a hack came together and make their ideas a reality through the use of hardware and software at the HackUMass Hackathon.

This was the third consecutive hackathon at the beautifully modern and Wi-Fi rich Integrated Learning Center.

When I first heard about the Hackathon, I thought that all students involved were just hacking into the Umass’s system somehow. But after speaking to participants, I came to learn that hacking doesn’t always mean breaking into a computer or phone.

It can mean building something original in a very short amount of time. There are hardware hacks, which is building something hands on using forms of technology such as Arduinos (those mini computer chips with what seems like thousands of switches and little pieces) and then there are software hacks that include building by means of using computer systems such as Microsoft or Google.

Throughout the duration of this sleep deprived weekend, students worked in groups of four to create their own new and novel innovative forms of technology while utilizing resources provided by such companies as Microsoft, Google, and Fit-Bit.

“It’s a lot of learning on the spot,” one of the participants said.

Some participants learned how to code specific programs for the first time during the hackathon. They were able to work hands-on with Arduinos and new technologies such as the Fit-Bit.

In addition to creating, students were encouraged to attend “tech-talks” held throughout the night by industry specialists.

“A hackathon is to foster growth. Providing resources creates a unique environment and you work on something new you’ve never worked on before while meeting a lot of new people,” stated Jun-Goo, a hackathan participant.

Some students had attended thirteen previous hackathons, while others were attending for the first time. Hacks ranged from a “Yo-Mama Joke Generator” to a “puppy” made from a Roomba vacuum cleaner and a muscle sensor band around the creator’s forearm.

At 1pm on Sunday, students who wished to present their hacks were judged based on criteria such as originality and their creation’s ability to function. Eligibility to win an award was based upon score and material used.

During this relatively short period of time, students finally had a chance to piece together their ideas into a functional and innovative form of technology by use of tangible products.

An incredible amount of dedication was shown, to work for just under 36 hours straight on something you are aren’t even sure will work.

To the participants, it wasn’t a sacrifice at all, but a privilege.


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