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Hacking into the future

More than 400 students will be taking part in the second annual QHacks event Feb. 3-5. (Photo by Garrett Elliott)

After successfully hosting the first-ever QHacks event last year, the student-organizers of the event were ready to take it to the next step.

That was after getting some much-needed sleep of course.

The numbers tell the story. For the second annual hackathon at Queen’s, there is twice the number of participants at 400 and twice the amount of sponsorships. The event is bigger and better, says Anuj Arora (Artsci’17), a founding member and the Head of Strategic Partnerships for QHacks.

More than 1,600 applications came in, showing the increasing interest in the event.

“We have applicants from everywhere,” Mr. Arora says. “We have applicants from Egypt, from California, from London, from France. There are people from more than 100 schools that have applied.”

A Major League Hacking event, QHacks gets underway at 10:30 pm on Friday, Feb. 3 and will wrap up on Sunday, Feb. 5. In between there will be lots of hard work toward creating new technologies, little sleep, but also lots of fun and opportunities for participants to advance their knowledge.

The focus of the event is on building the individual project, as well as skills, connections and networks for the participants.

“It’s about building and using creativity – building something tangible with this creativity that you have,” Mr. Arora says. “The original hackathon was a bunch of coders sitting around a table saying, ‘Let’s get some pizza, let’s see what we can build and let’s help each other out.’ Even though it now has become more commercialized and sponsors have come on board, we want to maintain that original hackathon concept, and keep the reward within – I came here to build, to show that I can do it, to develop and learn.”

The goal of a hackathon is for teams to work together to build or create a new technology. Projects started before the event are not permitted. It has to be created completely at the hackathon.

Early in the program, a wide range of workshops are available for the teams to learn new skills that they can apply to their projects. Then it is down to work. There’s 36 hours and very few of those will be dedicated to sleep.

Projects will be displayed Sunday in Ellis Hall, 10:30 am-12:30 pm, with the final ceremonies following in Grant Hall. Both events are open to the public. A panel of judges will pick the top three projects. Other awards are also up for grabs throughout the weekend through mini-competitions such as working on a coding project without testing the code before the final product is submitted. The cleanest code wins. There are also awards for Best Sustainability Hack, Best Mental Health Awareness Hack, Best Healthcare Hack as well as the best use of specific technologies.

Half of the participants are from Queen’s and there is a mix of hackathon veterans and rookies. There’s much to be gained, says Mr. Arora.

“The ones who are new to this, they are the ones who will get the most out of this,” he says. “That’s who we’re doing this for.”

For more information about QHacks and to see the full schedule, visit qhacks.io/.