Local Hack Day 2017 @ Santa Clara

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In October I got an email from someone at Major League Hacking about organizing Local Hack Day on campus. I fought alone last year to make LHD happen but failed – I tried to coordinate it through ACM but I couldn’t get anyone on board. Timing was probably the worst it could be: as much as people wanted to participate, having it during the weekend before finals week is a major factor that can hurt turnout a lot.

But this year LHD happened and it was a blast!

Shoutouts

Shoutout to MLH for making logistics cake and hassle-free!

Extremely fortunate to have the board of ACM’s support on promotion and funding for food and those were HUGE determining factors in making this experience successful. I ❤️ SCUACM!

Shoutout to myself for initiating SCU LHD and handling backend tasks like securing venue and swag, coordinating with MLH for mentorship, creating Splash & FB event pages, and most importantly, ordering food 🙂

Why and how did SCU LHD happen?

There was a high level of enthusiasm from Bronco/other local hackers. That for sure was the primary motivation for me about bringing LHD here. ACM already has Hack for Humanity, one the biggest hackathons on campus every year in the Spring, but I felt that a small hacker gathering like LHD can do a better job of creating a pressure-free and welcoming environment for hackers to work together.

What went well?

We’ve had projects made by teams of hackers from SCU and UCSC that only had 12 hours to hack them together.

Holiday greeting card generator is a web app built with the Clarifai IR API that lets the user search for the name of an animal and generates holiday cards with images of it.

SCU Calendar is PC application written in C# that helps the user search for events on campus by keywords. It also uses filters to work around their schedule to make sure they can attend. Once matches are found, the app will notify the user via text about the event. View it on GitHub: https://github.com/MattMistele/scu-calendar-windows

There’s an iOS app for help during natural disasters. The app allows to user to make emergency calls and/or send SOS messages in just one click. The team crash coursed on React Native and Twilio for a couple of hours and got their hands right away onto building it! That alone was pretty impressive, not to mention that this app can be literally live-saving!

What could have been improved?

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    To be fair I would be surprised if ANYONE came, but we’ve actually maxed out our RSVPs and even had guests from UCSC. I was grateful for that. I learned that it’s pretty normal for hackathons to have a more than 50% dropout rate, and could have opened up more spaces for RSVPs.
  • Venue. The venue wasn’t optimal because it was inside a residential building that locked its gates on weekends. Comparing to a big, open space like Locatelli, a classroom isn’t really ideal for welcoming hackers. This is also what makes organizing hackathons much harder than you think (besides getting sponsorships).
  • Better swag and prizes. We didn’t have sponsors for prizes and T-shirts this time and those are big incentives for hackers. We don’t have a robust team dedicated to hackathon org at this point, but in the future we can recruit more people to work on getting sponsorships from companies and orgs.
  • Healthiness and variety of food for hackers. Our advisor, Dr.Figueira, was generous on arranging funding for food at the event. We had two hackers who were vegetarian and had to walk off campus to get dinner. Instead of doing quick online orders of Panda Express, the next time take advantage of the size of the event and collect feedback from hackers for diet options!

After all, organizing a hackathon was way more fun than I expected. It wasn’t big, but can’t say it wasn’t successful. And as a hacker, I could say that it was really nice to be on the other side once in a while.

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