Massachusetts Daily Collegian

HackUMass grows in size, inspires prospective hackers

By Morgan Hughes

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Roughly 400 students from the greater Northeast area converged on the University of Massachusetts campus this weekend for the third annual HackUMass, a 36-hour marathon event where participants create hardware and software projects.

Participants spent the weekend designing, programming and building new technologies. The hackathon, which initially began in its first year with just 100 students and was held in Marcus Hall, now partners with groups such as MLH, Microsoft, Verizon, Google and Fitbit and took place at the expansive Integrated Learning Center.

HackUMass co-director Frankie Vicusi said the program improves every year.

“(The event) was a big success, so this year we decided to grow it,” Vicusi said.

The event provided participants with the necessary supplies to create projects through tech talks, mentoring for beginners and even networking opportunities with sponsors such as Fitbit and Verizon. Participants are encouraged to be creative, and created a variety of inventions such as lawn mower simulators, voice-controlled robotics and virtual reality video games.

HackUMass also provides opportunities to participants of all skill levels.

Adi Shmerling and Adin Klotz, two high school students from Amherst, may have been among the youngest participants in the hackathon. The young students, who were working on a text-based adventure game, planned to “wander” around the event to learn from other projects.

“We thought it would be a cool way to get inspired and learn cool stuff,” Klotz said.

The event’s website encourages beginners to get involved, writing “Come to learn and experience your first hackathon – we guarantee you’ll want to return.” Vicusi said the program offers participants a variety of resources.

Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

 

 

“We have mentors on hand throughout the duration of the event,” Vicusi said. “It’s up to [participants] if they want to use mentors. But if they feel like they want to work and figure it out themselves, they are more than welcome to.”

HackUMass participants can win more than 10 awards, and there are also monetary prizes for participants who land in first, second and third place, as well as more specific prizes. Fitbit, for example, awarded a prize for a participant’s best use of a Fitbit, and Verizon offered an award for the most effective use of a new communication method or its impact on society.

The program, which began Friday at 8 p.m. with check-in and a dinner at Blue Wall, concluded Sunday afternoon with closing ceremonies.

Morgan Hughes can be reached at [email protected]

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