Third annual hackathon draws biggest crowd yet


Future developers cultivated during HackIllinois. Urbana, IL. Photo by Lily Katz

By Lilly Mashayek

HackIllinois is a timed 36-hour technology competition,AG where students from across the country compete to create a technically challenging and interesting project, such as a mobile application that can use a cellphone to turn on a microwave.

Katyayni Gupta, sophomore in Engineering and vice president at HackIllinois, has been a staff member since her freshman year.AG

“Hackers have exactly 36 hours to build and make whatever they can possibly think and dream of,” she said.

Rohan Kapoor, senior in Engineering and director of HackIllinois, said they received a record-high number of applicants this year — around 4,000.AG

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“Pretty much everybody who actually said they were coming, has come,” he said.

The team had been working on this year’s event since last May, and was hoping to make this year’s bigger and better.

“We’ve done this twice. We know how to do the basics, let’s go all out crazy and … let’s make it really big, let’s put a lot of money into things like crazy projects,” Kapoor said.

Students from all over the country – including as far away as Florida – attended the event.AG In previous years, students from Canada have participated as well.

“That’s about a 15-hour bus ride (from Florida), so that’s about how much dedication people have for this event,” Kapoor said. “And that bus was packed.”

There were 1,500 hackers that attended the event, and 80 students volunteered.AG

Gupta said the event was diverse because HackIllinois encourages all skill levels to participate, from “newbies” to experts.

Bri Chapman, AGsenior in LAS, has participated in HackIllinois since its first year, and thinks it is a great addition to the UIUC campus.

“We really take things seriously here,” she said. “It’s one of the biggest hackathons in the country, and the biggest in the Midwest.”

View a photo gallery of the Hackathon.

This year’s hackathon also featured a new open source initiative, which is an initiative to compile source code for free access and redistribution amongst the public.

HackIllinois paired teams of four students with an open source developer in order to help students build something that “gives back to the community,” Kapoor said.

“The open source initiative is completely new and hasn’t been seen on any other hackathon,” Gupta said.AG

While teams or solo participants had to register in advance to be eligible for prizes, everyone was welcome to come take part in the fun, said Gupta.

“There’s also a lot of people who out of the fun of it come and join and make things anyways,” Gupta said.

HackIllinois also enlists the help of University computer science and electrical and computer engineering professors to help judge the competitionAG.

“We have witnessed a huge amount of cooperation in our department in order to pull this off,” Chapman said.

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