Table of Contents Technology ShowcaseBuilding an Engaging Online Student UnionTechnology Showcase: Implications of the Internet of Things (IoT)Technology Showcase: The Natural Limitations of Technology: 4K TVsTechnology Showcase: Students Organize HackathonsTechnology Showcase: LEDs EvolveTechnology Showcase: Beyond Facebook: Social Media 2.0Technology Showcase: The Potential of Virtual Reality GamesTechnology Showcase: What Event Planners Need to Know About WiFiTechnology Showcase: 10 Pro Tips for Using Microsoft WordTechnology Showcase: It's Just a Video in PowerPoint–What Could Go Wrong?Technology Showcase: Competitive Presenting with PowerPoint RouletteTechnology Showcase: Adjusting Procedures to Provide Better A/V SupportTechnology Showcase: Tracking A/V Inventory in DEA EMSTechnology Showcase: Applying Innovative, Inexpensive Technology in a Theatre SpaceTechnology Showcase: Raspberry Jammin'Technology Showcase: Road Test: Apps for NotetakingTechnology Showcase: Road Test: Student Employee Scheduling ProgramsTechnology Showcase: Road Test: Project Management Software10 of the Top Commons Posts of 20152015 Education and Research Fund DonorsNeeds Assessment Identifies Strengths, Room for GrowthCAS Provides Better Tools for Relevant Functional AreasNew Team Provides Educational Tools, Discussion Opportunities Related to Campus ViolenceVolunteerism In the AssociationFrom the President: Who was Your First?From the Chief Executive Officer: Promoting Dialogue About Campus ShootingsMarch/April 2016 KioskOn the JobUnion Spotlight: Linda E. McMahon Commons at Sacred Heart UniversityUnion Spotlight: Andorfer Commons at the Indiana Institute of Technology
Volume 84 | Issue 2
March/April 2016

Technology Showcase: Students Organize Hackathons

Hundreds of students are scattered in a large space together. Some of them are typing on their laptops while others try to find a semi-comfortable position to sleep in for an hour or two. Half-eaten snacks and empty bottles surround students that have been working almost non-stop for the last 36 hours.

In the past few years, hackathons have grown in frequency and size among colleges and universities. They now host some of the biggest hackathons in the United States.

The University of Michigan hosts MHacks, a semi-annual hackathon in which student programmers, developers, and designers from different universities come together to spend 36 hours creating apps, sites, and devices. The student organization-run hackathon provides teams of 1-4 people with food, drinks, and a place to work while they bring their ideas to fruition. According to the MHacks website, students should prepare as if they were going to a sleepover—with their laptop, charger, deodorant, and a change of clothes.

Students then begin to work. As the hours go by, students code, nap, snack, change their ideas, and collaborate. Mentors are at the hackathon to help students.

After the 36 hours have passed, the teams’ creations are judged, and winning teams are given prizes such as trips, laptops, devices, money, and more. The grand prize of the Fall 2015 MHacks was sponsored by Walmart and included a trip to Walmart headquarters, a 16GB Apple iPad, Dell 2-in-1 laptops, a $500 Walmart gift card, and more.

Major League Hacking (MLH) is “the official student hackathon league” with a mission to “cultivate communities where aspiring hackers have the opportunity to learn, build, and share their creations with the world.” MLH Hackathons are “weekend long programming competitions where student hackers get together to show off their technical skills.”

MLH works with more than 150 hackathons annually in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. According to the MLH website, both PennApps (the first student-run college hackathon in the United States, hosted at the University of Pennsylvania) and MHacks drew more than 1,200 participants simultaneously for the biggest hackathon weekend in January 2015.

PennApps was first hosted in 2009 with 17 teams. In 2015, PennApps hosted the world’s largest college hackathon with 2,200 participants in the Wells Fargo Center from 133 universities, 31 states, and 13 countries. All funding for PennApps comes from corporate sponsor donations, and many prizes are funded by sponsors themselves. By sponsoring hackathons, these organizations become connected with student hackers.

According to the PennApps website, the most important aspect of a hackathon is “the community it generates and skills that inexperienced hackers walk away with.” Hackathons are open to all who are passionate and want to build their skills. They are a way for students to collaborate with each other to turn their ideas into realities.