Editorial Notebook

HackMIT a fun experience

Last weekend, I attended HackMIT, a weekend-long hackathon hosted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This particular hackathon had participants spend a straight 24 hours coding a project involving some combination of software and hardware. Several dozen tech companies sponsored the event; many encouraged teams to use their software and APIs when creating their hacks. With hundreds of teams from all over the country, this contest was no small event.

My trip began early Saturday morning; my teammate and I left before dawn to make it to Boston for the 8 am check-in. The sponsoring companies presented their available services and hardware they had brought to the event, and also the standards by which they would be judging projects. By building one’s project to one or more company’s frameworks, your team would be eligible for the awesome prizes being offered.

The hacking itself took place in an ice rink (minus the ice). The rink was covered in many dozens of tables, yet my team and I were unable to find an empty one. Eventually we settled down in one of the rink’s penalty boxes; however, we were soon faced with another problem: no internet. Most likely overwhelmed by the number of devices, MIT’s wireless network was not able to keep up with demand; walking around, almost everyone I spoke to was having some sort of trouble. Many began using their phones as WiFi hotspots, giving them names that bashed MIT’s infrastructure. Several of these promoted the upcoming Y-Hack being held at Yale University in November, with names such as “Y-Hack will have internet!”

After finding a connection in a neighboring building, we got to work. We decided to create a “cookie clicker” style video game, allowing the user to play as the NSA attempting to collect all the world’s information. Perhaps our project had become more of a political statement than a viable winner, but I was very much enjoying the full hackathon experience. Although we weren’t really eligible for any prizes, it was fun to see the judges getting a kick out of our simple game.

Despite the long sleepless night and lousy internet, I found HackMIT to be a great experience where I not only created a cool project, but also met awesome people and collected free swag–and ate free food! If this sounds interesting to you, be sure to sign up for future hackathons, such as Y-Hack being held at Yale University this November.