24-hour hackathon promotes practice in coding, computer programming

Luke Hutchinson | Online Editor

Ready, set, code.

Mason Hack club will host their first Hack-a-thon at the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Sciences on November 4. A hack-a-thon is a 24-hour overnight competition in which students interested in computer programming (CP) pair up into small teams, brainstorm a potential CP project and then build it through coding, all while being served catered meals and Red Bull.

At the end of the 24 hours, teams present their final product in an attempt to win prizes. According to junior and Executive Director Megan Cui, there will be specific prize categories like Most Popular, Best Internet of Things Hack, Best Gaming Hack and Best Robotics Hack.

Junior Outreach Director Annie Wang said the prizes at the hackathon will be high-end technology products and people should be motivated to win them.

“We will be offering Go Pros, 3D printers, and Bose headphones,” Wang said. “The prizes are highly exclusive, especially considering the event has no admission fee.”

Cui and Wang are the two students in charge of organizing the event. They were denied approval to host it as a Mason school event in September. Despite the new challenge of advertising a non-Mason event to students, Cui said they overcame the setback by partnering with the Mason Accelerative Robotics and Science Fund (MARS).

“We’re partnering with the non-profit organization that actually used to be the robotics team at the high school named MARS,” Cui said. “We wanted to partner with Mason, but we understood why we couldn’t due to liability reasons with students from around Ohio.”

Every day from July to September, both Cui and Wang spent time reaching out to get sponsors for the hack-a-thon. Wang said this process was the most difficult part of organizing the event.

“On Labor Day weekend, Megan and I sat down in Starbucks for six straight hours and cold emailed 60 companies,” Wang said. “What I realized was companies don’t just want to give out their money if you haven’t personally connected with them.”

While Cui and Wang expect a turn-out of around 150 students from Hack club and the rest of Ohio, Cui said her main concern is that people will be scared away by the idea that they must be professional programmers.

“I didn’t think I was going to major in CP when I attended my first hackathon, but now I plan on it,” Cui said. “It’s a place for everyone to learn so much with no judgement, and it was the reason Annie and I started Hack club.”