Stop: Hacker time

Stop: Hacker time

HackUMBC is in its second year at UMBC

Imani Spence

Technology Editor

Summary: HackUMBC is a hackathon that works to bring together the best pieces of UMBC along with the best pieces of a hackathon to allow students to create phenomenal tools.


When one thinks of hackers, one may think of computer geniuses who can unlock information that would not normally be available to users. One may even think of great technology innovators who change the way the computer interacts with users. Both of those ideas are correct.

A Hackathon gives hackers an outlet and forum to use their skills to successfully create something that was not done before. These events are usually over hours at a time and focus on the ability to create something quickly with a group of other hackers.

The community that is built around hacking in groups fosters greater learning amongst hackers and can create a community that outlasts the hackathon.

The inspiration for HackUMBC came from Michael Bishoff, one of the co-coordinators of HackUMBC, attending a Hackathon at the University of Michigan. During this hackathon, he was able to connect with lead developers from big technology companies like Facebook, Google and Apple.

“We had 36 hours to build something awesome” Michael Bishoff, a junior computer engineering major, said. According to the HackUMBC website, the term “hackathon” comes from the idea that one can “hack something together in an evening.” Not in the negative sense.

Bishoff said that he and the members of the HackUMBC team wanted to “create a hackathon at UMBC to share this great experience and embrace the start-up culture in Baltimore.”

Perry Ogwuche, a former computer science and mathematics student who collaborated with Bishoff to create the first hackathon, says that he was excited to “bring awareness of Silicon Valley to [his] campus.”

Last year there were 84 student hackers, who made up 22 teams over the course of 24 hours.

Hacking something together takes a team. After Bishoff attended the hackathon at University of Michigan he reached out to several other students who helped him make it happen.

Even students who participate in the hackathon are asked to use teams. The teams can be no larger than four people but students are able to go alone — though they are strongly advised to have a team.

HackUMBC was an effort that came together with the help a team of both students and sponsors. Bishoff says “Faculty and corporate members will be at the event to mentor the students and help the students with their project.”

Corporate sponsors, such as Northrop Grunman and Next Century Corporation, have helped make HackUMBC free for UMBC students and even for participating high school students. The students are asked to bring the things they may need during a 24-hour period, but the cost to register is free.

Major League Hacking (MLH) lists HackUMBC has a sanctioned event. MLH has a code of conduct and a guide for sanctioning on their website that includes rules based on diversity and creating an environment that is safe for hackers.

Last year there were several projects that came from the hackathon. The winning project was BookSwap, a project that allows UMBC students to sell and trade books with other UMBC students.

Another standout was a tool that allowed students to use the Student Course Experience Questionnaire (SCEQ) to rate their classes. The SCEQ is made up of professor evaluations and student feedback to create a holistic review of classes.

HackUMBC is scheduled for September 27-28, and students have already begun looking for teams and registering to participate.