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ShellHacks Or… HellHacks? What Florida’s Largest Hackathon Got Right And Wrong

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

The month of September is supposed to be vital for tech majors all around Florida. For one weekend each year, hundreds of college students flock down to the shores of Miami and into the halls of Florida International University for the state’s largest hackathon, where they get the chance to build projects, learn from workshops, and possibly gain a job from a local or major company. This seemingly wonderful event has an interesting name: ShellHacks.

ShellHacks was created seven years ago by INIT at FIU, and sponsored by entities such as Microsoft, Google, and Vanguard. The hackathon was supposed to be a convenient spot for tech-savvy students to gain experience and work opportunities, but there have been mixed opinions on the event this year. After hearing these interesting thoughts, I chose to conduct a survey on others’ experiences with ShellHacks and had participants rate their satisfaction with certain areas of the event on a scale of 1-10. So, did ShellHacks manage to hack their way through their issues, or are there some bugs in their own code? Let’s dive into their merits and their faults.


The average rating was 3.9 out of 10 for Shellhacks’ organization. The main venue, which was a two-story conference center, was where it was hosted, and over 1,500 college students and dozens of sponsors had to move around. During the busiest hours, hallways were packed tight like sardines. “The venue size was too small,” said one respondent.

The low score doesn’t just stop at the space, but rather what happened in the space. Opening and closing ceremonies were heavily delayed, workshops were canceled due to simple projector issues, and there was even a random fire alarm at one point, forcing everyone to evacuate. Thankfully, there was no fire, but the situation was never addressed again. “The organization was bad,” said one person in the survey.


Though ShellHacks vouched to provide students with many accommodations, including food, beverages, and a place to sleep, the average accomodations rating was an astonishing 2.9 out of 10. “Having only Monster energy drinks for people to drink for 3 days is crazy,” responded one participant, bringing up the absurd amount of energy drinks that were provided compared to water. There were also complaints about the quality of the food, which was lacking in flavor and quality. Someone even commented, “please try to get more food for that many people…especially for people with dietary restrictions.” While much can’t be expected from something that’s free, the event supported hundreds of people for an entire weekend and had tons of sponsors holding it up.

Additionally, sleeping was a challenge for many individuals. Many of us had packed sleeping bags, not expecting the most comforting experience, but what we weren’t betting on was constant lights on, others walking around and stepping on us, and loud announcements waking us up early in the morning. Some people resorted to sleeping in their cars just to avoid the constant chaos, which isn’t the most comfortable option either.


Surprisingly, the fun category was rated a little higher than the previous categories, averaging out to 5 out of 10. The event didn’t provide much in terms of entertainment, but instead, it was found within each other. For those who chose to build technical projects, they seemed to enjoy collaborating with other like-minded individuals. One coder said, “I got along with my team. We didn’t get far but we helped each other out.” As cheesy as it sounds, our source of fun was like that one infamous quote: “maybe the real treasure was the friends we made along the way.”

For the overall experience, the average score that was given was 4.7 out of 10. While it wasn’t the most terrible event to ever exist, there is tons of room for improvement. I will say that ShellHacks did one thing right: location, location, location. Since it was in Miami, it gave many people, including me, the chance to explore the lively city, strolling around the metropolitan area and heading toward the vibrant beaches. This one benefit made many people feel like the trip wasn’t a complete waste of their time. However, if ShellHacks wants to capture our attention again, they’ll have to debug their event and provide something meaningful and memorable.

Jolina Jassal is a senior at the University of Central Florida. She is a Digital Media: Web Design major who loves reading, writing, traveling, digitally designing, and benefitting from the human experience.