HackIllinois 2020 introduces new software, workshops


The Daily Illini File Photo

Explore Your Dreamscape – HackIllinois is the first Open Source-focused collegiate hackathon in the country. . Pictured here are students working on a project in the Thomas Siebel Center for Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering on Feb. 23, 2018.

By The Daily Illini Staff Report

From Feb. 28 to March 1, HackIllinois returns for its seventh annual hackathon at the University.

This hackathon has grown to become one of the largest and most well-regarded in the country, with attendees from around the country traveling to Illinois to test and build their hacking skills.

According to Opensource.com, open-source software is “software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify and enhance,” thereby allowing participants to focus on open exchange and collaboration during the one-of-a-kind event.

“HackIllinois is the nation’s premier collegiate open-source hackathon,” Melissa Chen, co-director of HackIllinois along with University Computer Science course developer Sathwik Pochampally, said in an email. “The event brings attendees from across the nation to meet mentors who are pioneers and leaders in the open-source field, with a focus on introducing students to the realm of open source.”

Chen said HackIllinois organizers decided to transition to open source after seeing little progress on ambitious projects after the event’s end. 

“One of the difficulties of the traditional hackathon model is that after the event, attendees rarely if at all, continue to work on their hackathon project,” Chen said. “Open source is inherently meant to be contributed to over a long period and has a lifetime much longer than a weekend. Additionally, the variety of open source projects that can be contributed to is so wide that the resulting entries would be very different and interesting.”

Students taking part will have the opportunity to work with experienced open source mentors for over 36 hours and contribute to open source through new features, bug fixes, and documentation changes. 

“This year’s event has a stronger educational focus than previous years,” Chen said. “My co-director and I believe that HackIllinois is a fantastic and well-known platform that can be used to educate the general public about a topic that very few may know about, much less know how to contribute to.”

Students will also be able to work on open-source tools, create open-source projects of their own, or join teams led by open-source mentors, and will be eligible to win prizes. 

Those interested should apply on the HackIllinois website, and those that especially want to secure a spot can complete an Open Source Challenge for guaranteed admission.

To do this, the applicant must make one pull request to any project before the application is closed and tell HackIllinois about it.

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