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Computer science lovers code for 24 hours at HackUMBC

Computer coding challenges, free food, information technology workshops and … dogs?! Computer science enthusiasts from all over the region flocked to the UMBC Engineering and ITE buildings for 24 non-stop hours of teamwork to compete in programming-based challenges. The event, entitled HackUMBC, enabled discussions of coding along with real-life applications of computer science knowledge.

“We began in 2013,” said the president of HackUMBC, Aman Chaklader. He described how initially only ten people attended; now, five years later, the event organizer approximates that about 1,000 hackers come to campus annually to participate in the weekend-long challenge. Not only do people from UMBC attend, but also students hailing from different campuses around Maryland.

Chaklader explained that hackathon attendees have, “24 hours to code whatever they want … a new website or app … we give them the tools necessary to create it.” He also emphasized how important it was that various companies sponsor the event, not only for funding but also to “see students apply skills in real-world applications.”

During the 24 hour period, hackers gathered into small teams to create the best computer applications possible, hoping to win various computer accessories such as headphones or gaming keyboards. “We’re trying to make an app [that] looks at the stats of basketball players by using an algorithm to rank them,” said Justin Mullins. He and his teammate Haroon Wardak were visiting from the University of Maryland, College Park. “The goal is to create a lineup so that betters can make the most possible amount of money.”

The event also ensured that attendees could gain notable experience in programming. Whether one was a newcomer in information technology or a seasoned computer scientist, workshops were available throughout the whole day to provide insight in order to sharpen one’s skills. Beginner Workshop: Intro to Web Design taught programming beginners the basics of designing a website, giving tips for using fonts, colors and simple layouts to captivate internet users.

Aside from having creators develop the best computer applications possible in only a day’s worth of time, organizers of HackUMBC ensure that programmers had downtime from competing during the event. This year, the hackathon featured dogs happily greeting attendees, a trivia night session, free meals/midnight snacks and even a cup stacking challenge. Various companies who sponsor the event set up vendors to not only provide resources for competitors but to spread awareness about internships and job opportunities in the field of information technology.

The actual coding ended around 1 p.m. on Sunday, when the event concluded with an exposition allowing the teams to proudly display their new creations to one other. Afterward, a final ceremony wrapped up the hackathon by presenting awards to those who created the best new piece of software or hardware.

Chaklader is hopeful about the future for HackUMBC. “We plan to do fundraising to raise more money in the future,” the president of the event said, in the hopes that the event will get bigger and better. After a long weekend, hackers left UMBC with both fun memories of creating something new and of the priceless experience they gained towards their computer science careers.