Teams of battle-ready hackers armed with laptops, sleeping bags and ambition filed into the Physical Sciences Building this weekend, ready to hack for 36 continuous hours for Cornell’s second annual BigRed//Hacks.
Hundreds of hackers from across the East Coast shared their passion of hacking, creating innovative projects and developing their skills. After 36 hours of hacking, participants presented their projects to judges, who were software designers and programmers from companies like Capital One and Goldman Sachs.
BigRed//Hacks co-founders Leon Zaruvinsky ’17 and Junia George ’17 kicked off the hackathon with opening speeches, in which they emphasized camaraderie and personal growth.
“We don’t want you to be building your hacks alone,” Zaruvinsky said. “We want you to be meeting new people, getting new ideas and we want you to be asking for help.”
Zaruvinsky also encouraged hackers to meet new people, to form teams at the meet-and-greet and through the BigRed//Hacks Facebook group and to “be kind” despite fierce competition.
Ideas of community and passionate learning drive the BigRed//Hacks organizers, according to George.
“We wanted to keep the spirit of why we were doing this alive. We really want students to be able to learn something,” George said in an interview with The Sun. “You’re supposed to feel safe in this community and not be afraid to share your thoughts and try something new.”
Though the 36-hour long event may seem intimidating for newcomers, George said many first-time hackers were in attendance.
In addition, the BigRed//Hacks team awarded a ‘Newbie Prize’ to the best project from a team of all first-time hackers, an award George said she hopes will further help the growth of the community. George thanked the University’s computer science department, Major League Hacking and the team of BigRed//Hacks organizers for their support.
Ning Wang ’16, who won the Newbie Prize award last year and was participating again this year, said her team considered BigRed//Hacks a fun learning experience rather than a stressful competition.
“There are mentors walking around asking how it’s going,” Wang said. “I really appreciate that.”
John Tambunting, a visiting hacker and senior at Brown, said he believes the competitive environment brought out the best in him and his team of hackers.
“We definitely tested our capabilities, and we all had something to contribute,” Tambunting said. “Hacking is taking on a new meaning.”
While many see hacking as an act of exploitation and destruction, Tambunting said hacking is really “all about creating.”
Other participants like Sandile Keswa, a graduate from Temple University, were veteran hackers aiming to further improve their skills. Both first-time hackers and long-time hackers like Keswa expressed appreciation for the BigRed//Hacks environment.
“There’s this buzz of innovation everywhere,” Keswa said.
When asked for words of advice to aspiring hackers, Keswa spoke confidently.
“Come to a hackathon. It might change your life,” he said.