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Over 100 students participate in Tufts’ latest hackathon

Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 6, 2014 08:02

About 130 students participated in Tufts’ latest, 24-hour hackathon, TuftsHack, which began Saturday afternoon.

During the event that juniors Marcella Hastings and Will Clarkson organized, students worked in teams to develop and code software projects. Through the hackathon, students learned practical computing skills not taught in Tufts classes, Hastings said.

“For a huge percent of the student population, they’re going to go out in[to] the industry and start building products for people to use,” Hastings said. “The point of the hackathon is to give people a chance to come and try actually building things.”

Participating in the hackathon, therefore, benefits students in their job search, according to Lecturer of Computer Science Ming Chow. The projects students create in TuftsHack, like writing samples for a publishing job, can help to supplement applications when students seek employment.  

“Beautiful resumes and cover letters are a dime a dozen,” Chow said. “If you want to be in
 any technology-based company
 they want to see how passionate you are.” 

Senior Sonia Chokshi and junior James Roseman from the Tufts Entrepreneurs Society also gave a pitch workshop on Sunday, teaching developers how to promote their products, according to Hastings. 

“Usually people spend a lot of time building and not a lot of time thinking about how they’re going to show off what they’ve built, so we wanted to facilitate that a bit,” Hastings said.

The event, which sold out five days after tickets went on sale b in late January, featured several company representatives, including Google, Microsoft and SendGrid, who attended to recruit students for jobs and internships. 

A representative from LevelUp, a Cambridge-based mobile payment platform, gave a demonstration and stayed for a few hours to talk with students, according to Hastings. 

“The hackathon culture has really been growing a lot in the past two years,” she said. “Lots of tech companies are really excited about coming to this kind of event and working with students and helping them to develop cool products, especially ones that use their tools.”

Though not all interested students could purchase tickets before they sold out, Chow encouraged those who did not register to come anyway. 

“This event is well-known,” he said. “The student [community] is a big family over there. Everyone knows each other in the computer science department,
 so they hear from their friends how great the event is — what you can do, what you can learn.”

Sophomore Jeremy Marcus attended this year’s event after his friends told him about their experience last year.

“Everyone came back with great stories, great experiences, things they learned,” he said. 

Marcus explained that he thought participating in TuftsHack would be a good opportunity to apply the skills he had learned in class. Chow agreed that hackathons provide good supplemental learning experiences.

“You can only learn so much in a classroom,” he said. 

At the end of the hackathon, students demonstrated their projects to their peers.

“That’s the fun part of the hackathon
 seeing what people have decided to spend 24 hours on,” Hastings said.

Projects included a social networking website that encourages teeth flossing, an online bingo game with some of Chow’s commonly used phrases and website expansions of Tufts Marketplace and Tufts Textbook Exchange. 

One team also created a Google Chrome extension that improves the iSIS user experience, adding search functions and displaying one’s position on a class waitlist, among other things. 

While sponsors play a role in influencing what students develop, many also seek to develop apps that benefit the Tufts community, according to Chow. 

“There are so many awesome things that happen at a hackathon,” Hastings said. “Watching and facilitating all of that is what makes this kind of event worth it. I was blown away by how awesome all of the attendees were, how excited they were to try out new stuff and work with new people.”

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