Before I walked into the Engagement Center in Somsen on Saturday, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. When I walked through the doors, I was immediately greeted with a smile and a handshake from Waheed Khan, founder of the Hackathon event. He is student at WSU majoring in Computer Science and Data Science and president of the Computer Science club.

What is a Hackathon?

The WSU Hackathon is a 12-hour event that gathers students from all over Minnesota to work on creating technology projects. The students can work with faculty, mentors and other students to develop their projects, and then eventually share them with the other participants. The event is put on by the CS and MIS clubs and sponsored by many local companies such as Fastenal and Federated Insurance.

As Waheed showed me around the event, I quickly realized that this event was going to be much more interesting than I had anticipated.

The Engagement Center had been transformed into a technology “headquarters” of sorts. There were countless monitors and laptops, gadgets I couldn’t begin to describe, and cords strewn across the floor connecting it all together in an intricate pattern.

And that was just the main room.

There were teams spread out in three other rooms around Somsen. As I made my rounds, I met some pretty cool, intelligent people dedicated to improving the world around them with their technology expertise.

What projects were people working on?

The first room I went to, I came across a father-son pair, Professor Aaron Wangberg (Of the Mathematics and Statistics Department) and son, Quinn. They were tackling an architectural design project together that they hope to create a foam version of within the next month.

Another group was devoting their time to a virtual reality game that they have been developing since the start of the semester. Seniors Eric Kalpin, Zach Finsch and Mitch Stanke will be presenting their virtual reality game to the community from April 30th– May 4th. Students can go to their show, play their game, and hear them talk about the process. I’ve never experienced virtual reality before, and it was incredible! I would highly suggest that people check out their Graphic Design senior show!

An extremely ambitious group that I spoke with was the Women in Computer Science, or WISC, club, which was newly approved just last week. Co-founders Uzma Ghazanfar and Caitlyn Holms were excited to share with me the mission statement of their new club.

“We are a supportive network to help women join and enjoy the culture of computer science and its projects.”

A couple of the projects the WISC group were developing on Saturday were related to wearable technology (flashing t-shirts!) and 3-D printing.

What I learned

I learned how close knit the community of computer science is and how dedicated they are to improving the world around them. Co-president of CS club, Evan, spoke about the community of Computer Science:

“It’s a maker culture. People from other schools love to work together, share ideas, we feed off each other’s energy and discoveries.”

Many of the people I spoke with throughout the event stressed that they wish more people knew that this type of event is open to everyone. One student told me, “Come in with zero expectations. Be ready to fail, but also be ready to laugh, build relationships, and have the time of your life!”

Witnessing this event unfold and talking to different people involved in Computer Science was definitely a learning experience for me, and I would encourage others to attend the Hackathon in the future.

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Janae Mann

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