Dear Western Student,

Tech is full of things that make you feel dumb. Debugging. Red-black trees. Job interviews.

Two years ago I attended my first hackathon and utterly failed to make an Android app. I found it all really confusing, and I didn’t end up getting anything working past the My First App tutorial. But I fell in love with the energy of the event and the dream that I could make something useful with nothing but my laptop in 36 hours. So I kept going. My teammates and I have made all sorts of broken things: an app that tried to use the Muse headband to predict what color you were thinking of, multiple knitting machines that can’t knit. I spent 24 hours straight failing to get YouTube videos to play faster on mobile at McHacks, and another 24 hours at BattleHack failing to get my WhatsApp bot to say something.

uninterpretable noisy EEG signal from the app that tried to tell what color you were thinking of

Hackathons are magical, collaborative, high-energy, no obligation environments. It doesn’t matter if what you make is broken. What matters is that you find the excitement and encouragement to grow and learn and believe in yourself. Through all these broken projects I’ve been guided by engineers from Google, Yelp, Paypal, Facebook, and more. I’ve met so many fellow students that are willing to stay up late with total strangers to help debug their code. I’ve learned so much about how web development works, how to program an Arduino, and how to be a better debugger and software developer.

we worked really hard on those broken knitting machines!

I never thought I could be a software engineer, but these projects gave me the exposure and confidence to try. Right after I graduated with my medical science degree, I did a Google Summer of Code project. The summer after, I was fortunate enough to land an internship at Google NYC.

Dear student, I want you to have this opportunity to make and learn something new. I believe in you so much that I have dedicated hundreds of hours to running Hack Western so that you can experience the magic, right here at home. We are accepting 250 Western attendees, and we have only 150 Western applications.

Please apply to Hack Western. It’s the first step.

Sincerely yours,

Ruth Grace Wong
Hack Western Co-Director

Update: Applications closed 5 days after this was published with submissions from 285 Western students. Thank you everyone! May you also find the excitement and encouragement to grow and learn and believe in yourself, whether it be at Hack Western or in your own community.