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MIT student blogger Allan K. '17

HackMIT: Coding over Cookies by Allan K. '17

sights from the hackathon [pictures inside!]

One week ago, an eclectic group of ambitious young men and women flocked to HackMIT to crowd themselves into a gym for 30 hours and make…something.

The hacking arena.

The ingredients: ideas, sleeplessness, Red Bull, and a steady flow of snacks that ranged from burritos to late-night “insomnia cookies” to breakfast bagels with half-and-half milk. Toss in a hallway lined with air mattresses for catnappers, and throw in a bunch of toys: Oculus Rifts, Pebble watches, Google Glasses, Arduinos, breadboards…all sandboxes for building castles. Put them all together, slap on a deadline, and you’ve got yourself a hackathon.

insomnia cookies
Insomnia Cookies: honestly some of the best cookies I’ve ever had.

oculus rift
Rocking the Oculus Rift.

Hacking, as defined by Wikipedia: “the act of engaging in activities (such as programming or other media) in a spirit of playfulness and exploration.” Don’t confuse it with chopping down trees, or serious coughing, or the illegal entry of computer systems. Hacking is no less than the building of the future.

For one team, that future was one with a smart refrigerator mounted with an internal webcam that would detect, identify, and tag with an expiration date any food placed inside it. Another team was hard at work making a Grand Theft Auto-inspired game set in, well, any setting on Earth the player wanted, as long as it was on Google Maps. Yet another team was going to reinvent the breathalyzer. “Are you going to need testers for that?” joked another hacker on break from coding his Chrome extension that would allow users to copy-paste text directly from in-browser image files. That hacker, Kevin K. ’17, ended up winning second place (and $2000) in the hackathon, beat out only by a hack that lets users draw on a 3-D digital whiteboard by moving a flashlight in front of a webcam.

The second-place-winning project of HackMIT 2013, in the making.

I…am not a hacker (yet). I went into the hackathon with a mild curiosity for this new phenomenon, armed with Rastaban (my camera) because the HackMIT organizers gave lucky me the opportunity to help photograph the event. I wandered out of the hackathon slightly dazed, very tired, and incredibly motivated to build the skills to become a hacker by next year’s HackMIT. New goal for myself: finish the current Codecademy curriculum (and become fluent enough in those languages to build my own castles) by the end of summer 2014.

More sights from the hackathon below. Enjoy!

glass whiteboard
Plexiglass windows function fairly well as whiteboards. Or should I say, clearboards?

Even hackers need backrubs sometimes.

cookie distribution
Cookie distribution.

hacking under the logo
Hacking under the HackMIT logo.

HackMIT in a nutshell.