Hacking to Innovate
By Gabriella McNevin
The Oxford Dictionary defines hackathon as an event “in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming.”
During an interview with Connor McEwen, a key organizer of a Boston University hackathon, McEwen mused on the evolution of the word hack and hackathon. He noted that, “hackers are makers, developers, and innovators.” The hackathon is a period of time in which people can tinker with existing technologies to improve or to invent something new.
“Wait,” I piped in, “I thought that hackers broke into secure software systems and stole information.” McEwen smiled in response. He suggested that the term accrued a negative reputation in the 1970s as result of pop culture references. Today, that reputation is fading.
McEwen attended his first hackathon at UCLA and wanted to bring the idea back to Boston. He worked with five other students to plan Boston University’s first overnight hackathon.
On March 21-22, more than 120 students came together for the 24-hour affair. The event included informational lectures, free food and mentoring from industry experts. Ultimately, 17 projects were submitted and five awards were offered.
The hackathon planning team, known as Make_BU, host smaller weekly hackathons. Going forward, the group plans to work with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to host their second University-wide hackathon in Fall 2014. Make_BU hopes to host a city-wide hackathon in Spring 2015. University clubs BUILDS, Digital Media Club, and Open Web were also involved in event planning.
Some Award Winners Include:
Mobile Award Winner
“Buzy” – An application that monitors the busyness of a location. Kanav Dhir (ENG ’15), Alex Wong (ENG ’15), Deven Dayal (ENG ’15) and Clement Su (ENG ’15).
Web Award Winner
“Duster” – A service that determines which Facebook friends an individual interacts with least, and suggests those friends are deleted. Carter Wheatley (ENG ‘15) and Adlai Gordon (CAS ’16). Visit www.dusterapp.com to learn more.
Newbie Award Winner
“Feel Good BU” – a mobile application for the BU chapter of FeelGood, an organization which raises money to end world hunger by selling custom-made grilled cheese sandwiches. Chris Yip (SAR ’17), Kyle Mann(CAS ’17), and Joe Cho (CAS ’17)
- To learn more, or register: http://make.bu.edu.
- To view the project submission gallery: http://makebu.challengepost.com/submissions.
- Make_BU Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/makebu.
Hackathon. (n.d.). In Oxford Dictionaries online. Retrieved April 19, 2914, from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/hackathon.
C.McEdwin. (personal communication, April 3, 2014).