UMBC’s first hackathon hopes to involve students in the community
While hack is usually not a positive word, the recent advertisements for hackUMBC promise to be a positive change in the community. The event is co-headed by UMBC’s ACM chapter and Cyrptocurrency club.
According to its webpage, it “draws its name from…”hacking something together in an evening”, not “hacking into someone’s computer and stealing.” Alex Morrow, senior computer science major and president of UMBC’s cryptocurrency club, one of the organizers of the event, says, “the idea to create hackUMBC came from Perry Ogwuche”, a senior computer science major.
This summer he and another organizer, Randi Williams, a sophomore computer science major, spent the summer in Silicon Valley, California completing internships through a program called CODE2040. CODE2040 is a non-profit that seeks to close the employment gap for Latinos and African American students by providing opportunities for technological advancement.
According to Morrow, “Every weekend [Perry and Randi] had the opportunity to participate in hackathons, events that they had never heard of before on the East Coast. Those hackathons were all about taking the problems revolving everyday life and solving them. Perry saw the opportunity to share this spirit of innovation with the UMBC community and from there hackUMBC started becoming a reality.”
The idea of hackUMBC is simple. For twenty-four hours straight, over one hundred students will work on projects of their own creation. Innovation and ingenuity are strongly encouraged.
Morrow said, “With this event, we hope that a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation will grow on campus. We hope that once people see how much can be built in just 24 hours they will take their projects and run with them…Who knows, we might have the next Mark Zuckerberg among us.”
The hackathon is open to all UMBC students. Morrow said, “Diversity is the key to ingenuity. If you do not know how to code but you have ideas, then the hackathon can be an opportunity for you to learn and share your other skills. If you do know how to code and you do not have any ideas, then put your skills to the test and help others create businesses. If you do not code and have no ideas, then you are still invited to come and discover.”
The only requirements for registration are a UMBC red ID and a laptop. The event is completely free, and food will be provided. While there are no rules, the event’s webpage has some suggestions, saying, “We strongly discourage building off of existing projects you’ve worked on.”
Since this is a competition, students are required to notify the coordinators if they use anything they’ve previously created. The site also states, “You can work alone, but teams are highly encouraged.” Registration for hackUMBC opened this past weekend, and the event can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
With the creation of hackUMBC, UMBC joins a new trend for technical campuses. Johns Hopkins University recently had a 36-hour hackathon of their own, “HopHacks.” Their winning project included a mobile messaging app integrated with Facebook.
Other winners included an image stitching software and an achievement based browser game. This broad range is just a small taste of the kind of projects that could be accomplished during hackUMBC.