Third-annual University event 'HackIllinois' increases hacking culture

By Fangyi Liu

For the third year in a row, HackIllinois has gathered hacking gurus from around the nation in hopes to increase hacking culture. Over 1,500 students and scholars, culminating into more than 250 teams, assemble to brainstorm an idea, collect data from websites and turn the design into application development. 

HackIllinois lasts three days, from Feb. 19 to Feb. 21, during which sponsored meals and snacks are provided for students who are willing to spend time with teammates at Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science and the Electrical Computer Engineering Building. Inside Siebel Center, classrooms transform into sleeping areas, where several air mattresses and sleeping bags are scattered across the floor, so some hackers can sleep in between their activities.

“We are building the future,” said Michael Qiu, the leader of team MatchIndeed. 

The team is developing a mobile application that maps the way career path impacts marriage. 

“If you put ‘technical engineer’ into the search bar, our websites tells you the states that have a large number of people married to technical engineers, which are Texas, California and Virginia,” Qiu said. “Technical engineers probably would want to work in those states to meet their future husbands or wives.”

Inside the Illini Union Ballroom during “The Project Expo,” another team, TravelEasy, exhibits their project. 

The team is developing an application that helps users plan trips. After users type the place of departure, traveling budget (and) the departing and arriving dates into the filter bars, the app lists possible destinations on the user’s budget.

The event is sponsored by several companies, including Microsoft, Apple, Citadel, Airbnb, Climate Corporation, IMO, IBM and more. These companies are known for developing software in creative ways and encouraging ambitious students to contribute to the field of technology with innovations and creativity. Each company connects with participants by offering financial support, initiating mentor communities and rewarding outstanding groups with recruiting offers and prizes.

According to Rohan Mathur, hardware director of HackIllinois, top teams are most likely to be recruited or receive internship offers from these sponsor companies because their innovations are going to impact the future of technology and science.

Jay Freeman, one of the VIP judges of the event, sees HackIllinois as instilling a “bright, strong, vibrant future and increasing number of people coming” in the future.

Freeman was also responsible for choosing the winning teams, and he said he believes these team members have the power to change the world. 

“I don’t think the top three places are going to change the world immediately,” Freeman said. “But we are teaching them how to build real stuff, realize the importance of teamwork and grow into somebody who can change the world some day.”

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