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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, April 19, 2024

JumboCode hosts first hackathon at Tufts in 5 years

Students from the Greater Boston area were invited to participate in a weekend-long civically minded hackathon.

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Students on JumboCode are pictured at the hackathon.

JumboCode organized Tufts’ first hackathon in five years over the weekend of Feb. 17–18 in the Joyce Cummings Center. JumboCode, one of the biggest coding clubs at Tufts, focuses on creating quality software for nonprofit organizations. Around 150 students participated in the event, which also featured guest speakers and workshops.

“No one on campus right now has ever experienced a hackathon,” senior Tyler Thompson, co-president of JumboCode, said. “We were really excited to bring that feeling of coming together to do something cool in a short period of time to all the people on campus who have never seen that before.”

With the club’s mission in mind, the JumboHack hackathon had five tracks: environmentalism, political awareness, education, racial justice advocacy and a general track. The participants were college students from the Greater Boston area who were tasked with launching a product or developing a website tailored to one of the five tracks.

“The underlying purpose was to play a small piece in social good,” Thompson said.

Expecting many students to attend and logistics to plan, members of JumboCode have been planning the hackathon for about a year.

“The prep we started towards the end of last year … and over the summer [we] met every two weeks and then kicked off meeting weekly [in the fall],” Lucas Maley, a senior and the other co-president of JumboCode, explained.

The JumboCode team reiterated that this event did not have any specific prerequisites. However, most applicants had some foundational knowledge about computer science.

“A lot of our participants were freshmen who haven't made an application. They’ve been in Comp 11 or Comp 15, learning these theoretical skills and now actually trying to make an application or some kind of product. I think [that] was really special,” Thompson said.

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Michelle Shiu / The Tufts Daily

The closing ceremony of the JumboCode hackathon is pictured on Feb. 18.

Juniors Johnny Tan and Won Kim, who are both active members of JumboCode and participated in the hackathon, shared their experiences from the weekend.

“The idea of the hackathon [was] bridging communities and being able to bring this motivation and the space for designers and programmers to come together and build a software or product,” Tan said.

This year's JumboHack was both Tan’s and Kim’s first experience at a hackathon.

“I think what makes it really nice [is that] you really bond with your teammates and it forces you to come up with ideas super fast and improvise,” Kim said. “It was both fun and also it’s pretty unifying. Everyone’s working together on something in a small amount of time.”

There are no requirements to apply; however, in Kim’s experience, he said having some foundational knowledge in computer science was very helpful.

“At hackathons, we are not just challenged technically, you also need logical thinking and [a willingness] to be challenged,” Tan said. “A prerequisite is you’re able to be in an uncomfortable zone and learn with the team.”

JumboHack was open to all college students in the Greater Boston area. The JumboCode team had also organized technical workshops for participants to gain more knowledge.

“By extending the invitation to all the schools in Boston, it creates this networking system as well,” Tan said.

Tan and Kim shared their team’s strategies — they signed up as a team beforehand, and purposefully selected individuals even with varying skill sets.

“I definitely do think there’s some advantage to being familiar with the people on your team, but at the same time I think it could be interesting to just go in blind. … I think the great part about the hackathon is getting to meet new people,” Kim said. “We realized how important it was to find the problem, rather than just coming up with solutions. Once you know what the problem is then you can figure out how to solve it.”

While the hackathon is a resource-heavy and costly event, Maley said JumboCode hopes to make this an annual competition. The Tufts Community Union Senate awarded JumboCode $10,741 in supplementary funding for the event. The club hopes to have access to similar resources in years to come.

“At the end of the JumboCode hackathon, they mentioned signups for the next year planning team, so I think it’s already in the works and it’s something to look for in the horizon,” Tan said.