With nearly double the students in attendance, this year’s hackathon was an overwhelming success.
What is a hackathon?
A hackathon is “an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects.” A hackathon lasts anywhere from 8 hours to a couple of days, typically fueled by caffeine and pizza. In 2013 the first Ohio State hackathon was held for 24 hours. The full report from that hackathon is available here: https://www.ohiohackathon.org/reports/2013/
Why a hackathon at Ohio State?
The goal of the event was to foster a tech culture amongst students at Ohio State and cultivate technical talent in Columbus and the Ohio region. “OHI/O” — Ohio State’s Annual 36-hour Hackathon and programming contest was held Friday October 3rd through Sunday October 5th. Over 200 undergraduate and graduate student programmers built working software and demonstrated them to a live audience of students, faculty, and representatives from tech companies. Students competed for over $5000 in prizes and were judged on categories including technical difficulty, creativity, usefulness, and presentation. Projects ranged from music apps, to a Google Glass project that put people in context, to an app to check in which had applications in doctor’s offices as well as class room attendance. One team used a Raspberry Pi and inkjet printer motors to rake a zen garden.
Why is the library involved?
The Ohio State University Libraries are co-conceivers of this event because it positions student learning in a fast-paced environment. The libraries have the infrastructure in building spaces that can hold the participants, there is enough bandwidth within the library to handle the amount of traffic that the students require for their hackathon projects, and the library is open 24 hours, so little extra staff is needed and separate procedures are not required. Additionally, students have commented that they enjoyed the library support of this event and that it encouraged them to “think of the library as supporting their entire academic career- both for classes as well as for fun.”
Suggestions from some of the hackers this year included projects that might be in the queue for next year: “It would be cool if you guys had an app that everyone downloads before that sends SMS alerts or in app notifications like “It’s time for dinner!” or other important messages so that people who aren’t right next to the headquarters knows what is going on.”
Other comments included: “Enjoyed the opportunity to build an application from start to finish. I learned a lot and truly understood how to apply my classroom/personal learnings.”
“I felt like I got a lot done and really accomplished something cool. I enjoyed working with my team. We will continue working on our project, so it helped us get off the ground.”
One of the changes this year was that we focused on providing a healthier culture around the hackathon. Mentors were on call round the clock to provide guidance and support. The timeline was extended from 24 hours to 36 hours, to allow for time to take a break, get some rest (and maybe, shower). The variety of food provided included healthy snacks from nuts to veggies, and all meals had options for dietary restrictions. While there was ample coffee, there were also other choices of beverages including tea, hot chocolate, and water.
A video of the event festivities is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLFE5nKHSYI&feature=youtu.be