July 18, 2019 | 76° F

Students raise money to host HackRU at RAC

Things are looking up for the organizers of HackRU, this semester’s largest student-run tech event at the University. The bi-annual hackathon, now in its third year, attracted more than 400 participants last semester, making it the biggest iteration to date.

But the coordinators have planned something even bigger for this semester.

Sam Agnew, HackRU director, said the competition is expected to host between 800 and 1,000 hackers when it takes place in April.

“We wanted to go much bigger this year, so our first choice [of location] was the [Louis Brown Athletic Center],” Agnew said, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.

The RAC is home to Rutgers’ men’s and women’s basketball teams and seats 8,000.

“We applied for special events funding and the desired location and found that we met the criteria.” Agnew said. “The University seems to be much more supportive of these events now, especially since we’re no longer trying to use the student centers where there are a lot more regulations.”

Rutgers is allotting HackRU $20,000 for the event, Agnew said.

Agnew attributed much of Rutgers’ support to Kerri Wilson, director of Student Involvement, and Carey Loch, associate director of programs.

After speaking with various sources, Loch said she discovered HackRU had been very well organized in the past.

“I knew that they had struggled meeting the needs of people who wanted to attend their event in the past, and I knew that this event would have a significant draw,” Loch said. “I wanted to be supportive of them and the timing of the event and RAC availability worked out perfectly.”

Fueled by the additional funding and massive capacity, HackRU aims to raise $100,000, which is four times larger than the previous budget, Agnew said.

Agnew, who is responsible for laying out the strategy of the event, ensuring its execution and overseeing the various committees, was also the director of the previous semester’s HackRU.

But organizing this semester’s HackRU has been very different, he said.

In the past, all HackRU organizers were also elected officials of the Undergraduate Student Alliance of Computer Scientists, one of the University’s premier tech organizations and the main sponsor of the hackathon.

“We found that it’s really difficult for a student to be a productive member of USACS and HackRU, so we split the team in two,” Agnew said. “Now, if you want to help organize HackRU, you have to be dedicated exclusively to the event — you have to sell your soul to us.”

Agnew said an organizer’s commitment to the hackathon is paramount.

“If you’re involved with organizing the event, your main priority is to make HackRU kickass instead of focusing on your grades,” he said. “It’s not more important than your health and not dying, but it’s right below that. We don’t want anyone flaky who might bail during midterm weeks.”

Amy Chen, the director of outreach for HackRU, admits balancing school and coordination can be difficult.

“The biggest challenge for me is having to keep track of all the moving parts, many of which unavoidably conflict with school work and classes,” said Chen, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. “But there’s something so exciting about being part of an event like this that it’s worth the stress.”

HackRU organizers are planning to secure at least half a dozen buses — all paid for by sponsors of the hackathon — from nearby universities to ensure participants can easily make it to the event. So far, only about $10,000 has been raised in sponsorships aside from University funding, Agnew said, so organizers have a long way to go.

“There’s a lot more work to do, but we’re committed to making this the best HackRU yet,” Chen said.

By Tyler Gold and Nis Frome

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