UCSD Hosts Third Annual ‘SD Hacks’ Hackathon

UC San Diego’s third annual hackathon, SD Hacks, took place this weekend, from Oct. 20 to Oct. 22. Over 700 students from universities all over the country participated in the 36-hour competition sponsored by some of the technology industry’s biggest names, such as ViaSat, Qualcomm, SPAWAR, and Amazon.

Students can choose to compete in one of the challenges presented by a sponsoring company or by the organizers at UCSD, or they can simply design a project without submitting it for the competitions. The grand prize this year, sponsored by the SD Hacks organizing committee included a PS4 Pro, Oculus Rift + Touch, and an Apple Watch 3.

This year, SD Hacks also partnered with UCSD’s Virtual Reality Club and HTC to provide participants with HTC Vibes to use for their projects. Elise Wong, a junior from Muir college who served as this year’s organizer, explained that UCSD works with many on-campus engineering organizations as well as University Events office, to provide hackers with hardware and resources to experiment with.

“We have workshops run by other UCSD student orgs,” she said. “CSES held a workshop, App Developers at UCSD held a workshop, and VR Club at UCSD help a workshop. I think [it’s] pretty cool that we work closely with those groups. As a hackathon organizer, we’re lucky that University Events office supports this event too.”

Akanksha Kevalramani, a senior from Muir college, held a workshop on behalf of Design at UCSD as well. A former participant, she believes SD Hacks has improved its user experience since the first iteration of the event two years ago, which makes the event more enjoyable for new participants.

“This year they’re doing a mentor queue thing, where people can put themselves on a queue and mentors can go around and help people, which is really impressive,” she explained. “I think little additions like that — that make the user experience better for people attending the hackathon — really makes a difference.”

SD Hacks was Audrey Chung, a junior from Marshall college’s, first hackathon. As a pre-med student, she had little prior experience with coding, but really enjoyed learned new skills at SD Hacks.

“I would definitely do it again,” she told the UCSD Guardian. “Now that I’ve gone once, I have a better idea of what to expect and how I’d want to go into it the next time. I already have an idea that I’m hoping to pursue at the next hackathon I go to. It’s overall a great opportunity for anyone of all levels to check out, especially since the event comes at no monetary expense for any of the participants.”

Although Wong plans to step down as director of SD Hacks next year, in the future she would like to see more participation from students with non-computer science and engineering related majors.

“I would like to see other majors come out to SD Hacks, because it is stereotypically known as just a [computer science] focused event,” Wong told the UCSD Guardian. “I want to bring in more people from biotech [fields], business, and the startup community. [Hackathons] are for anyone who just want to create some project or work with other people on a cool idea.”