UC Davis’ third annual student-run hackathon strives for social progress
On Jan. 20 and 21, HackDavis will host 700 college students, alumni and high schoolers in the Activities and Recreation Center to code for social progress in three given tracks: health and wellness, education and the environment. Participants of all levels of expertise will create code for 24 hours, starting at 12 p.m. on Jan. 20. Judging and demonstrations will begin at 1 p.m. the following day.
Applications closed Jan. 5, and this year the event accepted 700 applications from college students, high school students over 18 and alumni who graduated within the last year.
The goal of a hackathon is to provide a space for usable, problem-driven software development in a timed competition. HackDavis harnesses this development to tackle social problems, teaming up with Habitat for Humanity this year. According to marketing team member Annie Lin, a third-year computer science major, this is what makes HackDavis unique from other hackathons. Its slogan is “code for social good.”
“HackDavis is one of the few hackathons in the country known for providing students with a platform and encouraging them to solve pressing social issues,” Lin said. “This is important because we feel that young individuals are incredibly bright, and they can achieve and learn all while helping society through health and wellness, education, or environment. HackDavis also attracts many talented students to UC Davis which helps out university recruitment.”
Sriya Maram, the director of HackDavis’ external affairs and a third-year cognitive science major, participated in the 2017 event and later went on to join the team. Maram explained how the event utilizes outside nonprofit organizations involved in health, environment and education to effect true impact in the world.
“Last year, we partnered with Teach For America, and they helped make a randomized feeding chart for students,” Maram said. “We also partnered with the California Water Project. Something else that I thought was really cool was a mental health application.”
Maram talked about the impact for social good that partnering with nonprofit organizations can bring. She said she was excited for this year’s involved nonprofit organizations.
“This year we already have two confirmed nonprofit partners,” Maram said. “Habitat for Humanity — the Sacramento chapter — and Beyond Twelve, an education nonprofit.”
The event is partnered with multiple UC Davis STEM departments as well as the nonprofits and is sponsored by technology companies such as Intel, AT&T and Google Cloud Platform.
Participants in the race to code are also bolstered by hardware and technology provided by HackDavis. Lin explained how helpful it is to provide equipment for students to incorporate into their creations.
“Usually we provide gadgets like virtual reality headsets and Amazon Alexas, so teams can incorporate some hardware into their projects,” Lin said. ”My prediction is that students will be using a lot of the hardware [this year].”
Lin said workshops are provided throughout the year and at the hackathon event, so beginner and expert students alike can tackle computer coding and programming. Throughout the year, the Facebook group posts event pages for student tutorials and workshops, offering website development series, game development series and professor talks. According to Lin, the events they hold are “beneficial to the students” as they “teach students important programming skills.”
On its website, HackDavis states that it hopes to “inspire change and cultivate a growing hacker opportunity” by intersecting coding with social change. The 1,600 people who like the HackDavis Facebook page seem to agree.
“We find that hackathons often don’t result with projects as practical solutions to specific societal problems and we’re looking to change that,” the website states. “Our goal is to foster a community that uses technology to pave the way for social change. For the 3rd year in a row, we’re bringing together the most talented students in California to address the world’s most pressing issues.”
Written by: Aaron Liss — firstname.lastname@example.org