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It’s Sunday night and I just came back from University of Washington, where we just closed the Fall 2015 edition of DubHacks. And all I can say is that it was, hands down, the most fun and rewarding hackathon experience that I managed to be a part of.
First, and the most important lesson – always let James Whittaker deliver a keynote. If there is one person who can energize a crowd of 600+ people in an auditorium, there really is no better choice than him (also, read this). Second lesson – caffeine is your best friend through 48 hours of hacking, but in reality it’s the people that are there. I came in as a mentor with Microsoft, but I ended up having an amazing time with students and many other professionals, all with different backgrounds and experiences, as cliché as it sounds. But really – every single person that I met there were amazingly passionate, smart and full of boundless energy.
So why was DubHacks so great?
Do you know what is the best college campus in the country? Spoiler alert, it is UW. According to TheBestColleges.org, it’s #20 in the list of the most beautiful campuses. Trust me, it’s not. It’s #1. What stood out is that even though it was during a football game when we started (go Dawgs!), there was plenty of parking available both in the Red Square and the adjacent lots. Despite being a huge campus, it is really easy to navigate – there are maps placed around that can always tell you where to go, which ended up being extremely helpful for attendees. Did I mention the fact that the entire event was spread across three buildings?
DubHacks successfully managed to get the best and the brightest from UW, a couple of other colleges in neighboring states – we even had an entire bus with students coming from University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)! In addition to that, we worked together with an extremely talented group of mentors – experts in Azure, web backend, web frontend, Windows Apps, IoT, Machine Learning and many others. And throughout the night and the following day we handled a huge influx of question on how the above technologies fit into a wide variety of projects (my phone died by 3AM from all the questions coming in). To be honest, it was also a tremendous learning experience for myself – I don’t think I’ve coded as much for Android as I did in these two days to learn about ways to integrate Mobile Services into photo-identifying applications.
Icing on the cake was the honor to look at the projects students presented as an expo judge – every single table that I stopped by to grade the project was not giving the slightest vibe of a two-day project. Which brings me to my next point.
The participating students really showed what they are up to in college – doing some serious hacking in and out of class. I’ve seen an electronic frisbee trajectory tracker, an app that automatically calculates and learns about the types of pizza your coworkers might want on a certain day, an entire system that uses Kinect to analyze how distracted a driver is when on the road, a game that is asking its players to find certain objects and up their score by scanning those directly with their webcam (all in the browser, by the way), tools that can generate videos from text (which, by the way, won first place), a project that will reward users with BitCoin for biking (while it’s mined on an Azure VM – the more you bike, the more cores the VM spins up and the more BitCoin you make) and many many more. It’s absolutely mind-blowing just what skills all people here posses, and I am excited to see where they are going to take those (*cough*Microsoft is hiring*cough*).
Everything else #
Food trucks (thanks Microsoft!), lip sync battle, piroshki, cup stacking, good music, stickers, more good food (read: Chipotle catering), frisbees, raffles and everything there is great about hackathons – all exceeded expectations at DubHacks. Above all, mad kudos go to the organizers – @MahirK95, @nitrogen, @skylerkidd, and @MaliaImayama.
If there is one hackathon that you want to pick to attend in a year, look no further than this.