Article by freelancer Molly Zatman
While other students sleep in on the quiet, chilly Saturday morning, hundreds of students bustled through Reckord Armory at the University of Maryland to participate in Technica, an annual hackathon for underrepresented genders.
Technica, which took place Nov. 13 and Nov. 14 both at the University of Maryland campus and online, attracted over 1,500 students between their online and in-person programs. The student run event was a rare opportunity for students in a male dominated field to have a sense of community and guidance.
Utsa Santhosh, a senior computer science major and the co-executive director for Technica 2021, got into organizing the event when she was in high school.
“When I committed to Maryland, I was volunteering on the UMD campus. Someone approached me and they were like, ‘Oh, you seem like someone who would really enjoy organizing Technica.’ And I’d heard of it at that point, but I never went to it,” Santhosh said.
She began organizing Technica just to “try something new,” and it unexpectedly became a capstone of her college experience.
“It was just such, like, fulfilling organization for me … It carried me through college,” Santhosh said. “You could see the impact it had on people.”
Still wanting all to experience Technica this year, despite the university’s current restrictions on campus, the event’s organizers created a hybrid model, with on-campus and entirely virtual options.
“We had a ton of people on the platform from all across the globe, all across the country,” Santhosh said.
The program’s participants spanned from Berkley, California to Seoul, South Korea.
Elizabeth Qiu, a high school senior from Montgomery County, Maryland, who had already been to two Technica events, attended the event remotely.
“I’m so lucky Technica was my first hackathon. I had heard of another hackathon, but I looked at photos and the website, and it was all men. I was very scared of that,” Qiu said.
Technica’s “safe space” atmosphere drew her back the next year, and the next. The event has inspired her to explore more computer science options, which she is now planning to pursue in college.
“In five years, I want a bachelor’s in computer science, maybe a master’s, maybe a PhD. I want to be a software engineer,” Qiu said.
Alyssa Teramoto, also a high school senior from Montgomery County, Maryland, also virtually attended this year’s Technica as her first ever hackathon.
“Our computer science classes [at school] are like majority males. So it’s kind of hard to reach out and ask someone for help,” Teramoto said. “But I felt like with all the underrepresented genders, it was really helpful and easy to reach out to people and ask for help.”
Teramoto also found the sponsors to be empowering, saying she was especially inspired by a woman from Her, an LGBT+ dating app.
“Hopefully next year, I can go in person,” Teramoto said.