By Alexandria Waldron
Cal Poly Pomona inspired more learning by doing by hosting the second annual HackPoly on Friday and Saturday.
Over 300 students from Cal Poly Pomona as well as other surrounding universities and community colleges collaborated in the computer software and hardware hackathon. They had to create websites, applications and hardware hacks in only a 24-hour time span.
“This is my second time at HackPoly and there have been a lot of great improvements all around,” said fourth-year computer science student Josh Doctors. “I definitely recommend it to anyone else who is interested in building or designing programs.”
HackPoly is organized by students from Poly Founders, an entrepreneurship club on campus. This year the event was sponsored by Major League Hacking, the official student hackathon league. MLH hosts over 100 hackathons on college campuses throughout the year in several countries including the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe.
“This is Cal Poly Pomona’s first MLH event, and we are really excited about that,” said fifth-year computer science student and Poly Founders Co-President Bryan Thornbury. “MLH is trying to take hackathons and turn them into a collegiate sport.”
Other sponsors, including Alienware and Dell, provided the students with hardware: virtual reality headsets, a gaming station and a large screen television.
“We were really focusing on the experience,” said Thornbury. “Right when people walk in, the first thing they are going to see if all this stuff they’re getting from our sponsors.”
Students who wanted to participate in the hackathon were required to submit an application. Students submitted more than 600 applications, twice the amount of applications from last year’s event. The organizers had to narrow down the amount of applications in order to meet budget and space limitations.
“One of our main criteria while looking at applicants wasn’t if they had done this before or if they were experienced, but if they really wanted to be here.” said Thornbury.
“Hackweek,” a series of workshops about applications and web design, was also put together by the HackPoly organizers the week of the event to prepare less-experienced students for the hackathon.
“I think hackathons are very important, especially for those students in the technology fields,” said Nighal Selmi, a participant and second-year computer science student from Santa Barbara Community College. “It’s a really good opportunity to practice our skills and meet other people.”
Participants were divided into teams of no more than five students. Each team had a coder, the one making the program or software; a designer who was in charge of how the program looked; and a marketer who managed the presentation of the group’s final product.
All of these areas were critical when it came time for judging.
“We love this event because it shows the early stages of a startup company,” said Poly Founders Co-President Tyler Carrol. “It’s like meeting with a team of specialists, and all together you come up with an idea.”
After the 24 hours, teams had three minutes to present their projects to a panel of judges. The judges consisted of both Cal Poly Pomona professors and specialists within entrepreneurship companies. The first, second, and third place teams were awarded several prizes, including a Dell tablet and a free website domain name.
This year’s first place prize went to four Santa Barbara Community College students who created an application called WeLearn. WeLearn enabled users to create a profile and find the best people to create a study group with. The app also allows users to share homework problems, chat, and send images.
“The good thing here is that most of the people make things that they are passionate about,” said Selmi. “There’s so many people working on exciting and interesting things with new technology, it’s basically the future right here.”
CPP plans to host another HackPoly next year, as the trend of hackathons continues to grow throughout college campuses.
Alexandria Waldron / The Poly Post
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