Hundreds of Hackers to Compete Tonight

From its humble beginnings as a gathering of approximately 30 coding enthusiasts, the fourth 5C Hackathon has attracted more than 200 students set to participate in tonight’s 12-hour coding marathon. The event follows a week of instructional workshops that Hackathon organizers are offering to help students develop coding skills. 

“Hackathon is really open-ended, and we want to keep it open-ended,” said Andy Russell PO ’15, one of the event’s organizers. “The idea is that you can just get a team together or work alone, whatever you want, and just build something. The variety is a really cool part of it because a lot of other hackathons are just all web apps.” 

Companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Nextdoor are sponsors of Hackathon. The companies supply prizes for students and send representatives to speak to participants and provide guidance to hackers.

“Coding is
a great skill to have—if you can put it on a résumé, it’s really awesome,” Russell said. “But
beyond that, I think that it’s a great thought process, to think in discrete
steps about how you can solve problems. I think a lot of people are interested
in how the Internet works and how all these web pages work from just writing
text files.” 

Russell said that the goal of Hack Week, which consisted of instructional sessions that took place Monday through Thursday evening, was to give participants the tools they need to compete in today’s competition. 

“A lot of people who are interested in Microsoft either don’t have very much coding experience at all, or have coded in class but aren’t really confident in making a big applicational demonstrative, so what we want to do is kind of bridge that gap and put everyone at a baseline,” Russell said.   

currently taking a computer science course, so I’m viewing this as a tutorial
to broaden my skills,” workshop attendee Yein Kim PO ’16 said.

seems like a really useful skill, and I don’t know where else I’ll get a free
education in it,” said Kirsten Peterson PO ’16, who also attended a workshop. 

Students leading Hack Week workshops have used different web frameworks to teach participants the basics of coding. Last semester, students focused on a Python web framework, while this semester, participants learned a JavaScript web framework. According to Russell, the purpose of the change is to allow returning students to try new languages.

“I love
teaching programming—I just think it’s one of the best things out there,” Russell said. “I
did the first Hackathon and I just got really excited about staying up
overnight and having a bunch of other people suffering through that with me.
And I think it’s really cool to have over 200 people willing to stay overnight
and give up a Friday night.”

Pollak PO ’15, one of the founders of Hackathon, is currently taking a gap year to work on Clef, the mobile app he is developing with several Pomona College alumni, but continues to be involved with the event. Pollak spent the week on campus to help hold the Hack Week workshops. 

“One of
the things I love doing most is turning what was a previously nonexistent
society into one that’s actually pretty thriving,” he said. “I’m taking a break from
school, but this is one of the things that I miss the most.”

“To build something
from nothing in 12 hours is a pretty big accomplishment, so it’s entirely
my pleasure to get to come back and help out,” Pollak said.

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