Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

HackDartmouth Embodies ‘the Spirit of the Hack’

by Kristen Senz
May 2018 • CoolStuff

Reflecting the growing popularity of hackathons nationwide, HackDartmouth IV drew a record turnout for a 24-hour coding marathon held April 14–15 at Thayer School.

The 227 participants, including high school, college, and graduate students, came from about 40 different schools, some traveling from as far away as Canada and the UK, says Brenda Miao ’19, a biology major and event organizer. About 125 Dartmouth students participated. “We got a lot more participants than we expected, both Dartmouth students and students from outside Dartmouth,” says Miao. In September 2016, 157 students attended HackDartmouth III.

Students at HackDartmouth

Events like HackDartmouth challenge student teams to conceive and create web applications designed to address some of society’s most complex problems, all within 24 hours, and usually without much sleep. “It’s just 24 hours of excitement,” says Maio. “Even when you’re really tired, there’s a spirit of the hack that comes through, and that’s the spirit of collaboration and building something new and meeting new people, and that’s why I think the hackathon culture has been growing over the years.”

For the first time this year, HackDartmouth featured three different tracks: health, design, and quantitative social science. Miao explains that the tracks were created to attract students who might not normally get involved in computer programming, but who can contribute ideas and knowledge to the development process.

“It’s a great way to foster collaboration,” says Miao, who has been involved with the event since her first year at Dartmouth. “It’s really exciting being able to see what everyone is doing, because there are so many cool projects built in 24 hours, and it gives a sense of how technology is fitting in with healthcare, which is the field that I’m the most interested in.”

HackDartmouth presentation

Among the winning projects this year was Plain Privacy, a Google Chrome Extension that uses natural language processing to summarize the privacy policies of the websites a user visits. Inspired by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon of 2014, another winning team developed Darity, a web application that enables users to suggest, promote, and perform dares to raise money for local charities. Another winner was DietHelper, an Alexa skill that allows users to ask if certain foods can be eaten with certain dietary restrictions.

Mike Chapman ’76 Th’77 is a senior program manager at Intralinks, a global technology company that provides secure file-sharing solutions for the financial sector. At Chapman’s urging, Intralinks has sponsored three HackDartmouth events. Chapman attended in April, along with five other Intralinks employees, to help out, provide workshops, and recruit new talent.

“It’s a great talent acquisition event,” says Chapman. “You see students under pressure to perform and support their teammates.”

Thayer alums George Boateng ’16 Th’17, Hayley Stephlyk ’08 Th’09, who works at Microsoft, and Nisha Kumari Th’17, who works at Appian, also attended HackDartmouth this year.

Tech companies large and small are increasingly viewing hackathons as prime places to scout the best and brightest programmers and get fresh ideas for new products. Google and Facebook were among the sponsors of HackDartmouth and awarded special prizes for projects that made use of their platforms.

Tags: extra-curricular, innovation, STEM, students

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