This past weekend, Big Red//Hacks, Cornell’s oldest, student-run, large-scale hackathon hosted their annual event in the Physical Sciences Building for the fifth year in a row.
Sixty-seven teams representing Cornell and other universities such as Princeton and Binghamton came together to brainstorm and develop projects ranging from website applications to hardware prototypes that centered around this year’s theme of “Community Superheros.”
“We wanted to encourage hackers to think about how they can use their skills to help their communities and the people around them,” said Danny Yang ’20, a member of the Big Red//Hacks organizing a committee.
Students aimed to cover a wide variety of social justice issues, from tackling housing inequality to fine-tuning interface support for the visually impaired. For instance, the team ArkAngels, which came up on top in the Wayfair Housing Inequality, created an application targeted towards low-income households. This app uses computer vision to detect potential home intruders and fires and allows users to monitor their homes.
Hackathon participants benefited from learning different software frameworks for building their applications as well as working collaboratively in teams.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to get to know others who one may not usually interact with,” said Jordan Levin ’20, a current senior at Binghamton University and a weekend participant in Big Red//Hacks. “I always like to join a group of totally new people at a hackathon.”
In addition to hosting competitions, Big Red//Hacks provides workshops to teach students how to incorporate the software used by these companies into their projects. This encourages the events’ sponsors — such as Wayfair, IBM and Google — to attend the hackathon to help mentor and interact with the students.
“Hackathons are very expensive to run, and there are definitely a lot of events that companies can pick to attend,” Yang said. “We have a fantastic sponsorship team that maintains excellent relations with sponsoring companies, and every year we try to think of new ways to improve the experience of sponsors based on their feedback.”
While a lot of participants majoring in fields such as computer science and electrical and computer engineering, there are certainly opportunities for students with other unique skill sets to find their spotlight.
“I would definitely encourage future hackathon members even outside the [computer science and ECE] majors to participate in such events.” Yun Mi Koh ’20, environmental analysis and design, said. “You can always bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the table.”
Wang said that with her design background, she was able to contribute to the aesthetics of her group’s app Foresight, a runner-up project to Bloomberg’s prize. It was an ideal situation where her teammates could learn from her, while she learned from them.
“I largely enjoyed my experience at Big Red//Hacks. I got to meet people with creative ideas and who really liked to make cool stuff, and I got to make something I felt was pretty cool.” Kane Tian ’21, a member of ArkAngels, said. “I’d tell underclassmen to explore their options and try a hackathon for the experience itself, because you’re not going to get to do this often later.”
Check out all the student projects at the following link: https://brhfa19.devpost.com/