Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Hampshire College to host unorthodox hackathon starting Friday

By Stuart Foster

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Hampshire College will host its first all-day hacking event with an inclusive twist that displays the college’s reputation as a non-traditional school.

The Hampshire Hackathon, which will be held in Hampshire’s Franklin Patterson Hall from 4 p.m. Friday until 8:30 p.m. Saturday, will allow for participation from fields besides programming, which usually dominates hacking events.

“Hamp Hack is different in that they’re opening it up to a lot more fields, such as design, art and fabrication,” said Dhrithi Narasimhan, a junior majoring in economics at the University of Massachusetts who is managing public relations for the event.

Participants in a hackathon work on their projects throughout the duration of the event, with prizes often awarded to the participants who judges deem to have created the best project.

“People don’t usually sleep, they just work on their projects,” Narasimhan said.

Narasimhan added that there have been 500 applicants for the event, although the size of Franklin Patterson Hall limits the number of people who can attend to 250.

Narasimhan said organizers initially decided who could attend based on the first applicants, but have become more selective as interest in the event expanded.

“We took into consideration whether there were more females, because we’re trying to bring more females into the tech environment,” Narasimhan said. “We took in people from different colleges, not just Hampshire, as well as depending on what field they’re interested in.”

Workshops will be available for people participating in the Hackathon to attend, including some focused on artificial intelligence, woodworking and website design.

Prizes include an Amazon Echo (a home speaker) for the winner of the Environmental Sustainability category and a Leap Motion controller for the winner of the Artificial Intelligence prize.

The event is being sponsored by various groups, such as GitHub and Hampshire College itself. Narasimhan said sponsors had also donated computers to the event for attendees to use when working on their projects.

The event is also certified by Major League Hacking, a student hacking league which allows the Hampshire Hackathon to use technology such as the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality simulator, during the event.

Narasimhan said Hampshire Hackathon is carrying on a tradition of unorthodox educational practices, which Hampshire College has historically been known for.

“Hampshire is known for being very different,” she said. “They don’t have a grading system or a major you can qualify in.”

Narasimhan said the majority of students who had applied were from the Five Colleges, with some also applying from the greater Boston area.

Hack UMass was held for the third annual time in October. Roughly 400 people attended the event which featured tech talks, beginner mentoring and networking opportunities in the Integrative Learning Center.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster

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