Code or Bust: HackWashU is back

| Junior Scene Editor

Illustration by Russell Peng

Just in time for cybersecurity awareness month, HackWashU is reviving the Washington University hackathon tradition on the weekend of October 14-16 in Lopata Hall. HackWashU will be the first of many competitions hosted in the 2023 season of Major League Hacking, a series of hackathons held across the country. 

HackWashU will provide opportunities to create solutions to problems in 4 different areas: privacy and security, sustainability, interactive media, and business technology.

“We’re trying to make our tracks as broad as possible to allow all the students maximum creative potential,” senior and founder Sam Kim said. 

Students will pick a category and form teams. Over the course of the weekend, they will produce a software or hardware solution to a problem. Projects will be presented to representatives of sponsor companies including MasterCard, Microsoft, St. Louis Cardinals, and Anheuser Busch employees and executives. Top projects will receive prizes and swag with a total of over $40,000 in value.

Junior and director of finance Emily Sheehan said, “Obviously when you think of Anheuser Busch, you think [of] beer, and really what the heck does that have to do with anything technology-related? But they have invested a lot of money in business technology.”

The event will be hosted both remotely and on-campus for WashU students. When not working on their projects, students will have chances to hear from and interact with industry professionals from the sponsor companies. 

“Mostly, it’s just a bunch of people putting their nose to the grindstone and pumping a project out,” junior and director of technology Bradley Hsu said.  “Basically, it’s an excuse for you to code for hours.”

While hackathons seem to be tailored towards engineering students, the HackWashU team wants all sorts of students to participate. As of Oct 3, more than 600 people have registered, including roughly 300 WashU students.

“We want this event to be as inclusive as possible. We want people from Sam Fox and Olin,” Kim said.  “We want the teams that participate to be as interdisciplinary as possible because that’s how the real tech world works.”

The executive board of HackWashU believes that hackathons like this one provide unique learning opportunities that classroom education in computer science can’t teach.

“In classes, we focus on specific languages or themes and ideas, but you might not have time to dedicate to learning something outside of class. So this is a fun, low-pressure and low-stakes environment to learn web development or machine learning or build an app,” Sheehan said. 

While HackWashU is the first hackathon the University will hold after five years, the team is ambitious about the goals and future of HackWashU.

Kim said, “Missouri as a state doesn’t have that many tech schools. That means there are no good Hackathons nearby. I want HackWashU to be a premier hackathon like the HackMIT of the Midwest!”


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