This past weekend I hung out in a different world. I attended Canada’s largest college hackathon to date, fittingly held at McGill University. A hackathon is a 24 to 48 hour sprint to develop a novel web, mobile or hardware application. Due to time constraints, prizes on the line and corporate sponsors perusing end products in search of summer interns, there's a lot of caffeine, very little sleep and a fun, yet competitive feel. The hackathon was organized by HackMcGill, a student run group founded in June 2013, whose goal is to develop a community within McGill comprised of creatives, hackers and entrepreneurs.
Except for listening in on conversations regarding code and trying it out on codeacademy.com, I don’t know too much about the magical world of software programming. I therefore went into this with little to no expectations (except that I might feel like an artsy little alien). By the time closing ceremonies rolled around, it was obvious that any expectations I might have had were surpassed tenfold.
This was a special event. With 400-plus students from all over Canada and the U.S., the environment that was fostered was entirely unexpected. Hackers, fueled by 2,500 cans of Red Bull, were just genuinely interested in learning from and teaching others. From the onset, the nature of the event was clear: everyone was there to build something cool. Not only did the vibes from the hackers, volunteers and organizers make this event so incredible, but the end products were insane: I played a video game with a banana-turned-controller, accessed google maps over text message rather than by using data, and I found out, through an applications quick search of my Facebook history, what kind of internet user I am (an information repeater, apparently...) The cash prizes ranged from $500 to $2,000 and were awarded based on a hack's polish in design, its user experience, technical impressiveness and applicability.
Most hacks were built with the same idea in mind: to solve a problem either in code or everyday life. The winning groups were comprised of individuals of all skill levels, talents and backgrounds (and, uncommon until recently, genders. Way to go ladies!) This weekend served as a reminder that anything is possible with a little creativity, very few hours of sleep, and a lot of drive. Check out HackMcGill for more to come.
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