Fall HackRU puts student innovations on display


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Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

From health apps to hypnotists, 800 students convened at HackRU on Saturday through Sunday to showcase their innovations to have some fun.

“A hackathon is called a lot of things — programming competition, programming marathons — but HackRU is more of a learning experience as we are open to people of all skills, and it is usually a 24-hour to 36 hour-long event in which people compete to win prices, or try and learn new technology,” said Michelle Chen, lead organizer of HackRU.

The event's tagline, "The coolest sleepover you have been to," acts as an opportunity to spend time with friends, meet different companies and learn new skills, Chen said. HackRU organizes the event bi-annually, one in the fall and the other in spring. 

Both events stand out individually, but the spring HackRU is usually able to accommodate more people because of the bigger space assignment.

The hackers are judged by members of HackRU and the sponsors. Prizes were given for first, second and third positions. First place won $1,024, second place received $512 and the third position won $256.

“Sponsors give out their own prices for sponsor-based winners," Chen said. "Dell gives out tablets to the winners. Some sponsors give out Amazon gift cards, (and others give out) hardware technology that the hackers can use."

The sponsors and HackRU alumni walk through the hacker tables, running their codes and pick the best five, who then get a chance to demonstrate their project for everybody during the closing ceremony, Chen said. The winners are picked based on the technicality of their project.

Morgan Stanley Executive Director Nick Williams shared the company’s reason for being one of the sponsors for HackRU.

“It gives us a chance to engage with people and link the next generation of students to technology who can make a difference," William said. "Our prices include a fast track interview process for the technology analyst and graduate studies programs."

As a first-time hacker at HackRU, Williams said he was excited to see such a wide range of people, including men and women.

Yash Sanghavi, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said he was excited about his first hackathon and was trying to search for internships.

Sanghavi said he is working on a health-related app with a team of six people from various universities. The app is geared toward children who are bedridden and unable to interact with other children.

“(The child) will be able to use the app for earning points ... These points can be used as funds by the child’s family or the hospital,” Yash said. “The event is really exciting and a lot of companies are here and I am looking forward to interacting with them."

Rocky Trifari, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said he was excited to host his first hypnotizing session at a hackathon.

“I am here to create a sub-comical, goofy atmosphere by inducing a trance state for subjects," Trifari said. "I am a little nervous but excited as this crowd is a different and huge audience."

When asked about the turn out, Chen said about 800 people came. Unlike previous years, the HackRU team created a registration process to keep a tab on the amount of people it could accommodate in the College Avenue Student Center. Even after taking the registered people in, the team was able to let more interested hackers in.

To provide the "coolest sleepover" experience, the HackRU team consisted of a team of volunteers being led by Volunteer Coordinator Anhelina Mahdzyar, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

Mahdzyar said that for the fall HackRU, there was a volunteer training session for the people interested in volunteering. The volunteers were mostly computer science majors, and for some of them, it was their first hackathon.

“The volunteers helped feed the hackers, set up the WiFi, run errands ... we honestly couldn’t have done it without them," Mahdzyar said. “This time, the team managed to get air mattresses and napping rooms for the hackers to help them rest comfortably in between the hacking sessions."

Mahdzyar also said the unique thing about the HackRU this year was the recycling and waste management initiative. The hackers themselves recycled all the plastic bottles, cans and cardboard by trading the empty ones with new ones. By doing so, the team was able to significantly reduce waste of plastic, water and paper and keep their surroundings clean.

One of the volunteers, Jean Woo Ha, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, shared his experience as a volunteer.

“There (are) a lot of mentors out there who help you code even if you are new, (and) companies are present for you to go talk to them," he said. "It feels like a lot of work, but is somehow relaxing."


Chinmoyi Bhushan

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