Four computer science majors from the Johns Hopkins University have organized the college’s first student-led hackathon, with financial backing from big-name companies like Facebook and Bloomberg L.P.
“From what we can tell, it’s the first hackathon period,” said Daniel Swann, a 20-year-old junior at Hopkins who claims the school has yet to hold a weekend-long hackathon for students and others affiliated with the university.
But open seats at this first hackathon, HopHacks, are all gone. As of Wednesday, Swann said, he and his fellow organizers closed down registration. They had planned for about 80 people to sign up. They got 130, with about 60 now on a wait list.
“Our registration deadline was last Wednesday at 11:59 p.m.,” he said. “We had such an overwhelming response that we had to close it … at 2p.m.”
Final presentations at HopHacks are Sunday, Sept. 22, at 10 a.m.
Plans for HopHacks began coalescing in the spring soon after the four comp sci majors — two seniors, two juniors — returned from PennApps 2013, the student hackathon put on by the University of Pennsylvania.
At 36 hours, HopHacks is shorter than the typical hackathon, although it retains the usual, overenthusiastic calling card of hackathons by billing itself as the “starting point for world-changing ideas.”
Swann’s intentions for this hackathon’s participants seem a little less lofty: “Our recommendation is to focus on Baltimore and the community,” he said.
Over the summer, the four finished the final preparations for HopHacks over the web in between interning at established tech companies on the east and west coasts. Swann spent this summer interning at Qualcomm doing software development. Another of the organizers spent his summer at Facebook, which is how they were able to land the social media giant as a $5,000 sponsor of this first Hopkins hackathon. Bloomberg L.P. chipped in another $2,500, and other sponsors, including Github, have also pitched in money.
This first HopHacks was open only to people affiliated with the university, including Johns Hopkins undergraduate and graduate students, although that might change in the future.
As for what students will be working on at this weekend’s 36-hour-long hackathon? Swann and his co-organizers will be encouraging teams to take advantage of datasets from OpenBaltimore, the city’s open data portal, “to make apps or location-based services to benefit the city in some way,” but it’s not mandatory, and participants can work on “anything they want.” He mentioned the university’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers club will be working on “hardware hacks.”
Swann’s own motivation for helping organize HopHacks comes from his interest in entrepreneurship, his minor at Hopkins.
“Initially I want to work at a couple large companies and gain some experience, and eventually I do want to get into the startup field,” he said.
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