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The Carletonian

Large prizes, little sleep

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The main question you are probably asking is: What exactly is a hackathon? Is it illegal? The answer is that it is not.

Josh Pitkofsky ’17 elected director of Carleton’s hackathon board said, “The word hack has completely changed in meaning. It is now more of a creative term.”

At a hackathon, within 36 sleepless hours, a group of students work to solve any issue that interests them, using coding. Hackathons happen all around the globe.

At CarlHacks, which happened Saturday, the projects ranged from an app that helps colorblind people interact with the Internet to a program that helps manage stress.

At the end of the Hackathon all of the groups presented their projects and answered questions about them. They had creative names ranging from Emojify to High Five.

However, the 36 hours are not all dedicated to programming. There was a meet and greet at the beginning, night Frisbee, Arb walks and several other activities. In addition, students were encouraged to bring a pillow in order to take naps and to bring a towel, so they could shower.

This was not Carleton’s first hackathon, but this was the first one open to other schools.

Forty schools from around the country participated, and there were even remote participatants from places as far away as India.

For weeks before the event, signs were posted encouraging all students to participate in CarlHacks.

A large portion of the CarlHacks budget was dedicated to advertising not just at Carleton, but across the country so that as many schools as possible could participate in the event. According to the CarlHacks board, this advertising campaign is nothing compared to what they plan to do for next year. The main goal of the Hackathon was to promote diversity within the world of hacking. From inviting more liberal arts students than average to having priority registration for women, CarlHacks was dedicated to being as inclusive as possible.

In fact, there was a seminar for basic programming skills so that people who had never coded a line in their life could potentially participate in Carlhacks.

The budget for this event was estimated at $70,000. Some of this was from Carleton itself but most of the money came from sponsors and donations.

This helps with transportation costs, and the many prizes that were given away to the winning teams.

Dell venue tablets, drones and Qippa subscriptions were given away to the teams that had the most successful hacks.

Pitkofsky said, “Our prizes were nothing compared to some of the bigger hackathons.”

At some of the bigger hackathons around the country, there are massive give away prizes, such as computers or free legal advice for intellectual property rights.

In addition to the winnings, there are normally recruiters from computer firms presents, so winning a hackathon can lead to a job.

However, according to MLH (Major League Hacking) only 10 percent of people who participate in hackathons do it for the job and financial opportunities.

“You can actually attempt to solve a real world problem within the length of 36 hours,” Pitkofsky said.

Hackathons have only come into existence in the last 10 years and already they are becoming a worldwide phenomena, and Carleton wants to become a part of this experience, according to Pitkovsky.

The hackathon board plans to expand CarlHacks for next year, so more schools can participate and so more faculty and staff can become involved.

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