Rutgers hosts 10th HackRU over weekend
Hundreds of students gathered to practice their coding and design skills at the 10th semi-annual HackRU.
The 24-hour software and hardware design event, took place at the Rutgers Athletic Center on April 16 and 17 with about 800 students in attendance, the majority of whom were from Rutgers.
The remainder hailed from different institutions ranging from local high schools to the University of Maryland, Temple University, Drexel University, Stony Brook University, Rochester Institute of Technology and Cornell University.
HackRU is the second oldest student-run hackathon in America behind PennApps, which is run by the University of Pennsylvania, said Michelle Chen, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and the executive director of the event.
HackRU is seeking to better itself not in terms of money or hackers but rather in terms of quality, she said.
One way they are working to improve its quality is through Tech Talks.
Tech Talks are 30 to 60-minute long technical seminars or workshops that are given by either representatives of sponsors, alumni, on-campus organizations or the Undergraduate Student Alliance of Computer Scientists (USACS), the organization that runs HackRU, Chen said.
“This year we ramped-up our tech-talks. We have over half a dozen going on during this hackathon,” she said.
The panels focus on central topics, she said. Introductory talks were included this year, which allowed both beginners and advanced hackers to learn new things.
“The mission of USACS, as an organization, is to give people the tools to succeed,” Chen said.
In order to fulfill its mission, the organization provides the hackers with all of the tools necessary to make the most out of the event, she said. They provide students with informative talks and workshops, as well as hardware for the their projects and food.
“Most of the things built at hackathons are software projects. They range anywhere from serious to silly ones," Chen said. "The serious ones vary from programs that try to diagnose diseases to crowdsourcing things that need to be improved in cities. A prior project that I have seen tried crowdsourcing broken street lamps and sending that data to the city so the lighting can be fixed."
Some of the highly popular mobile application people use today were started at hackathons, whether student or corporate run, she said. Those include GroupMe, Venmo and Sunset.
Chen said one of her favorite parts of the hackathon was walking around demos and looking at people’s designs and, especially, seeing hackers who are demoing something that they have not tried before.
Another one of her favorite parts of HackRU is what they call failure-to-launch, which means something went drastically wrong during the very last minute, she said.
“We have all been in that boat, but it’s great because even if they have failed, people still show off their demos,” said Chen.
The event organizers and volunteers are constantly running around because it is a student-run, 24-hour event that requires a large amount of preparation and attention through the duration of it.
Groups worked on many different projects.
One group worked on 3-D printing a pod and printed a 3-D Pokemon, another was working to create a two player game where the players work together but each have only half of the control.
A group of students from North Hunterdon High School worked on designing a smart mirror while students from NJIT worked on installing Siri on the Facebook messenger app.
“It’s a lot of planning, but it just ramps into this one weekend so seeing everything come together is awesome," said Jungsoo Park, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and event organizer.
Sofiya Nedelcheva is a School of Engineering first-year student. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @n_sofiyaaa for more.