Students Program All Night at Hackathon Contest

Photo: <b>Participants</b> in the Hackathon wrote original computer programs to be judged at the end of the 18-hour-long competition in Soda Hall.
Nathan Yan/Staff
Participants in the Hackathon wrote original computer programs to be judged at the end of the 18-hour-long competition in Soda Hall.

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Hacking Competition

A hacking competition took place on Friday, showcasing many of UC Berkeley's best computer scientists.



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While most students party by playing loud music and drinking alcohol, for at least 40 UC Berkeley students the "biggest party" of the year meant 18 hours of computer screens and clicking keyboards.

The Computer Science Undergraduate Association co-hosted its third annual Hackathon competition last Friday in Soda Hall, allowing students to create original programs and present their ideas to technology professionals. Members of the first place team got top pick between Amazon Kindles, 3M Pocket Projectors and 80GB Intel X25 Solid State Drives.

But according to Jessica Mah, president of the association, what excited the participants the most was spending time writing computer programs.

"The hacker ethos has remained," she said. "Everyone's here not because they want to make money or win prizes ... just to hack on stuff."

The first-place team created a program that allows users to watch videos from Hulu.com and play flash games on their mobile devices, said Zelam Ngo, a senior and member of the winning team.

Students filed into the Wozniak Lounge in Soda Hall at 6 p.m. to sign in for the event and assemble the teams they would work with for the night.

According to Mah, 30 teams began presenting their projects at 12 p.m. on Saturday to judges from Facebook, Inc., Zynga Game Network Inc. and other organizations.

Mah said at last year's event, she built a Web site to help people find internships. Other students created games and other applications.

When the event was originally created by a former member of the association, the number of programmers participating in the Hackathon was less than one-third of the number of this year's programmers, according to Mah. This year the association doubled the budget for the event, and attendance significantly increased, she said.

Mah said Zynga, the official sponsor of the Hackathon, provided funding for the event but students organized the entire competition.

Some projects built by students at past Hackathon events continue to be useful, Mah said. "People have found internships from stuff they've built," she added.

Junior Darren Kuo said that the event offers programmers an opportunity to come up with creative ideas.

"And the next day we get judged about how creative our idea is," he said. "It's a great way to improve programming skills."

Kuo said he has participated in Hackathon for the past two years and that he has learned something new each time.

"You'll be amazed in how much you can do, how much you can learn in such a short time," he said. "At the end you get to see everyone's product. Exchanging ideas you get to see what people do and how they do them."

Senior Yiding Jia said that he participated because he can show off what he has created.

"I like deadlines because it pushes you to finish something, so in a sense ... this type of event is perfect for me because I'll be forced to finish it," Jia added.

According to Borden Liu, a former president of the association, the association's expectations for the Hackathon have been clearly exceeded.

"It's about what somebody can do," he said. "At the end of the day, how creative can you be? ... What can you build?"

Tags: HACKATHON, COMPUTER SCIENCE UNDERGRADUATE ASSOCIATION


Cristian Macavei covers research and ideas. Contact him at [email protected]



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