A Student’s Guide to Tech Clubs on campus @ UC Berkeley

fang.
fang.
Jul 29, 2019 · 16 min read
There’s a lot going on on-campus, y’all

When I came to Cal, one of the things that excited me the most was the myriad of cool things I could do because there were just so many things going on on campus. Even looking just at Berkeley tech clubs specifically, there are a ton, but the large and decentralized nature of our school makes it difficult to keep abreast with everything going on and the information can be pretty overwhelming at times.

This guide hopes to address this by giving current and incoming students a high-level picture of the different tech clubs on campus. Hopefully, this summarized list can give you a better, consolidated overview of the different opportunities available on campus and help you figure out what you might be interested in.

Quick Notes

  1. This is a fairly dense article and you can read it end-to-end if you like. I’d recommend looking at the table of contents to see what interests you and then going to that specific section to read more about them.
  2. Like most things in life, the CS club scene/culture at Berkeley has both good and bad parts. I want to acknowledge this, but this guide will not get into that because it is meant to be a purely informational summary with facts about the different clubs and opportunities on campus.
  3. For graduate students: most of the student clubs described below are undergraduate clubs that don’t accept graduate students (with the exception of Blockchain at Berkeley and Machine Learning at Berkeley).
  4. It needs to be said that a large number of these Berkeley tech clubs are competitive, and so beyond just your interest in them you also have to make it through their (often) multi-round application processes (this is something I did not have an acute awareness for when I first came to Cal).
  5. If you enjoyed reading or found this article useful, please give it a few👏🏽s and share it with your friends so more people can get to it!

Table of Contents

  1. ANova //CS education for underserved communities
  2. Blueprint //Tech for Social Good
  3. Blockchain at Berkeley
  4. Cal Hacks //Organizing the world’s largest collegiate hackathon
  5. Codebase //Develop software for tech companies
  6. Codeology //Find your interest within tech
  7. Launchpad //AI/ML for meaningful technology
  8. Machine Learning at Berkeley
  9. MDB //CS Club focused on mobile development
  10. In Addition…
  11. A Final Note ️️

ANova

Exposing students from under-resourced backgrounds to role models & avenues for higher education

ANova is a group of computer science mentors and educators who want to make CS education more accessible by teaching at low-income middle and high schools around the Oakland Bay Area. Their mission is:

To improve computer science education in under-resourced communities across the Bay Area. Our outreach and mentorship efforts strive to introduce students of all backgrounds to computer science.

What do they actually do?

ANova mentors go to sites (middle school and high school classes or after school programs) on a weekly basis to either teach their own individually crafted computer science curriculum or lab-assist local teachers.

Additionally, ANova also hosts ANova Hacks, an annual hackathon which provides students from under-resourced backgrounds with their first-time hands-on exposure to computer science. The hackathon allows ANova to impact students from sites they don’t normally go to, and students form teams with peers and work with ANova mentors to flesh out beginner projects that may spark an interest in the field.

All members are also in committees that work on essential internal and external tasks.

Weekly site visits (~90 minutes) unless you are a site leader, in which case 2 site visits a week because you essentially set the environment and precedent for classrooms. Weekly meetings (alternates between General Meetings and DeCal meetings).

Very little.

Because they are teaching CS concepts at a middle/high school-level, a strong technical background is not extremely important. In fact, their members come from all majors, from CS to Math to Energy Engineering. Of course, having CS experience will be useful, but ANova’s network of members strong and diverse that they will help familiarize you with topics before site visits begin.

Furthermore, we heavily encourage non-STEM and STEM majors to apply as a diversity of experiences and backgrounds is important to broaden our perspectives and better connect with our students who would not fall within the typical demographic we expect of a technical environment!

Applications are released once school starts and generally due around 2–3 weeks into the semester.

  1. Info sessions during the 2nd week of the semester
  2. Written application with short answer responses to questions relating to their mission statement and your mentorship experiences. They highly recommend putting some time, effort, and thought into your responses!
  3. In-person interviews with ANova officers to assess teaching ability and committee fit.
  4. The final decision is made after the interviews

We prioritize an applicant’s club fit and passion for our mission statement over technical background, so if you’re interested in helping others, teaching, and social issues, definitely check us out!

Website: https://www.berkeleyanova.org/
Publications: https://medium.com/@berkeleyanovapr
Instagram: @berkeleyanova

Blueprint

Tech for Social Good

Blueprint is an undergraduate CS student club that develops pro-bono apps for nonprofits. Their mission is:

To make beautiful engineering accessible and useful for those who create communities and promote public welfare.

Each year, there are 5 projects with 5 nonprofits each taken up by a Project Leader (PL) and a team of 4–6 student developers. Projects are a year long, but they are worked on by different teams in the Fall and the Spring. In other words, you will work on 2 projects over the course of the year. You can read more about that here.

Besides the project teams and executive team, Blueprint also has a team called Blueprint External consisting of various directors (Design, Content, Operations, etc.) that perform many of the essential functions that keep the club running.

Weekly team meetings, weekly working meetings, club-wide meetings every 2 weeks.

Sort of.

Blueprint uses mostly React and Ruby on Rails for projects. You do not need technical experience with this tech stack specifically, but you do need to know how to code and have the technical resourcefulness to learn and figure things out.

There is an onboarding process for new members, and it consists of weekly lessons once a week with homework on top of regular development responsibilities (specific to each project).

  1. Info sessions at the start of the semester
  2. Written application with a few short answer questions and 2 or 3 longer (200–300 word) essays
  3. There is a round of filtering, and then some applicants go through a social round (meet the rest of club), coffee chat (with 1 blueprint member), Blueprint Games (in-person non-technical group activity), Build with Blueprint (technical activity meant to assess technical resourcefulness)
  4. The final decision is made after these 4 activities

Note: This is based on the Spring 2019 recruitment process, and the process might have changed slightly

Website: https://calblueprint.org/
Publications: https://medium.com/@blueprint
Instagram: @calblueprint

Blockchain at Berkeley

Student-run blockchain group

Blockchain at Berkeley (B@B) is a student organization focused on blockchain innovation via education, research, design, and consulting.

  • Consulting finds blockchain solutions for external clients
  • Design does a mix of internal and external projects involving graphic and UI/product design
  • Education works on DeCals and public online courses
  • Research conducts independent research projects.

You can read more about it here.

Monthly clubcensus (general meetings), weekly or biweekly department-wide meetings, and 1–3 project-specific meetings every week.

Sort of.

It’s best to have background knowledge in blockchain, but if you don’t, technical experience related to the department you’re applying to can make up for it.

  1. 2 semesterly info sessions
  2. Written application that can be found on its website (below)! Students can apply to multiple departments, ranked by interest. The club-wide application involves a short quiz on blockchain concepts.
  3. Each department has a department-specific selection process. This usually consists of 1–2 interview rounds and a take-home technical assignment.
  4. The final decision is made after these activities

Website: https://blockchain.berkeley.edu/
Publications: https://blockchainatberkeley.blog/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5sgoRfoSp3jeX4DEqKLwKg

Cal Hacks

The world’s largest collegiate hackathon

Cal Hacks is a nonprofit organization at UC Berkeley that fosters a culture of hacking, entrepreneurship, and social good on campus via the empowerment of technology.

Cal Hacks plans tech-related events. They started with an annual hackathon in the Fall (Cal Hacks) but has since expanded to other events and initiatives such as:

  • Cubstart: pre-hackathon program for first-time hackers, with mentorship, workshops, and talks to prepare participants and set them up for success at their first hackathon
  • Cal Hacks Fellowship: hackathon continuation program where teams at Cal Hacks are selected to receive funding to continue their project, with mentorship, talks, and other activities related to entrepreneurship

Weekly all-hands meeting, various separate meetings for different committees. The work is highly variable depending on the semester and how close it is to the hackathon (as well as what you’re focused on).

NO.

Some directors aren’t even in fields related to tech. Unless you are planning on working on the tech team, most of the work is related to event-planning

Varies every year and semester, but it is normally some combination of a written application, coffee chats, interview, and sometimes an activity.

Website: https://calhacks.io/
Instagram:@calhacks

Codebase

Building a diverse community for meaningful industry impact

Codebase is a software development tech club at UC Berkeley that works on projects for tech companies. Their mission is:

To build a community where passionate and driven engineers can grow together through meaningful industry initiatives.

Codebase usually has 4 client projects for companies and a mentored project, meant for freshmen or sophomores with no experience.

Client projects consist of 2 web and 2 ML projects, and mentored projects are usually with nonprofits. Mentored projects allow members to see what working in industry is like and learn about web development while being guided by a mentor in the club.

Weekly club-wide general meetings, team meetings at least once a week.

Sort of.

There are separate applications for mentored projects and client projects. No experience is required for the mentored projects, and that is usually targeted toward freshmen and sophomore. Experience is required for client projects.

  1. Info sessions at the start of the semester
  2. Written application with a few short essays
  3. There is a round of filtering, and then some applicants go through a coffee chat and a technical interview.
  4. The final decision is made after these activities

Note: This is based on the Spring 2019 recruitment process, and the process might have changed slightly

Website: https://codebase.berkeley.edu/
Publications: https://medium.com/@codebase
Instagram: @berkeleycodebase

Codeology

Find your fit in the tech industry

Codeology is a UC Berkeley student club focused on self-exploration within the tech industry.

Codeology gives you the opportunity to discover what passions and interests you have within the wide variety of subfields in tech through projects, workshops, interview prep in the context of a supportive community.

They do this through interview prep to help members recruit for the jobs and internships they want, and projects, where members can join a group of ~5 individuals to work together and expand their technical horizons under a project leader.

Codeology also has socials for you to get out of the academic bubble and hang out with fellow club members.

We’re all working incredibly hard and deserve time to hang out with like-minded, enthusiastic individuals in the supportive community we’ve fostered here at Codeology!

Weekly General meetings (1.5 hrs), weekly project meetings (3–5 hrs), and weekly socials.

You need to be taking or have taken CS 61A (Berkeley’s introductory CS class).

… but otherwise, there are no requirements to join! They value your will to learn over what you know.

  1. A written application
  2. A round of group interviews.
  3. There is a round of filtering, and some applicants go through a social night and individual interviews.
  4. The final decision is made after these activities

Website: https://www.codeology.club/

Launchpad

AI/ML for meaningful software products

Launchpad is a group of UC Berkeley students that solve problems by building intelligent software. Their mission is:

To use artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop meaningful technology.

Launchpad is a group of about 40 students focused on using artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop meaningful technology. Each semester, they have 5 project groups with around 8 people each, led by a student who has researched and discovered a problem which could be innovatively solved with AI.

At the end of each semester, they hold a showcase to present their technology and our findings to the students of Berkeley. You can learn more about the projects here.

Weekly team meetings and weekly club-wide meetings.

Sort of.

You do not need to have any experience in machine learning, but you do need some coding experience and the motivation to learn complex topics in a short amount of time. Launchpad has weekly workshops for new members to introduce them to important concepts in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Recruitment happens each semester and is comprised of 3 rounds:

  1. Written application, with 2 short answer questions.
  2. There is a round of filtering, and some applicants go through a behavioral interview with 2 club members
  3. The final round is a technical interview which is different for each applicant depending on their prior coding experience

Website: https://callaunchpad.org/

Machine Learning at Berkeley

ML@B

Machine Learning at Berkeley (ML@B) is an impassioned community of students working on machine learning industry consulting projects, cutting-edge ML research, and educational initiatives to make ML more accessible to the greater Berkeley community and beyond. Their mission is:

To build and foster a vibrant machine learning community on the University of California, Berkeley campus while also contributing to and engaging with the broader ML community outside campus.

Every semester, ML@B has several industry projects with various startups and established companies to develop or expand their partners’ ML applications along with a number of research projects, both independent and in conjunction with labs on campus.

Additionally, ML@B is responsible for providing a number of educational resources, career opportunities, and industry connections to Berkeley. A few examples include student-run classes in both machine learning and the impact of AI their technical blog, company tech talks, and UC Berkeley’s only machine learning career fair.

Weekly organization-wide general meeting for all members, weekly project team meetings for members on a project, and weekly committee meeting for officers.

New members that have just joined also go through ML@B’s internal new member education program, a rigorous ML bootcamp that meets twice a week.

It depends.

New members without previous ML experience who bring other skills to the table join the new member education program, while those looking to participate on a project their first semester will have had previous experience in applying machine learning to interesting problems.

For all members, ML@B requires prior coding experience, a passion for technology (particularly machine learning!) demonstrated through past initiatives, and potential for growth. Being a passionate learner, creative thinker, and strong problem-solver are big pluses.

Every semester has a new recruitment cycle, consisting of the following steps:

  1. Info sessions at the start of the semester
  2. Written application, including your resume and a few short answer questions
  3. An interview round with technical and behavioral questions
  4. A social mixer where you can get to know ML@B’s members on a more personal level and vice versa
  5. A final, brief second round of interviews

Website: https://ml.berkeley.edu/
Publications: https://medium.com/@ml.at.berkeley

MDB

Mobile Developers of Berkeley

MDB is an undergraduate student organization that aims to promote mobile development. Their mission is:

To provide a collaborative environment for members to grow their technical skills while building the next generation of software products.

MDB is well-known for its new member training program, which is a rigorous, semester-long program that all new members go through meant to take somebody from 0 mobile development experience to being proficient at mobile development. Android and iOS development are the 2 tracks that new members choose from, and at the end of the program, new members have to publish an app (which they build from scratch themselves) onto the app store.

After their semester, returning members can choose to do join either the technical part of the club, which includes:

  1. DevCore (Internal projects)
  2. Contract (Paid external projects)
  3. Training Program (as an instructor or mentor)

… or they can choose to join the infrastructure part of the organization, which includes leadership of 1 of their 3 committees (Design, Marketing, Social).

While mobile development is core to MDB’s identity, MDB actively encourages members to pursue projects in other domains like ML, AR, web, and hardware.

MDB also hosts the Berkeley Tech Fair, a massive undertaking…

  1. enabling entrepreneurial Berkeley (MDB and non-MDB members) students to showcase their work
  2. connecting bay area/Berkeley startups to Berkeley students

Weekly Hackshops, which are general meetings and working meetings rolled into 1. New members have a substantial number of extra meetings on top of this.

Sort of.

While MDB didn’t require any technical background in the past, they now have a base requirement of being “technically minded” — i.e. on the level of someone having taken an introductory CS class (CS61A, AP Computer Science, etc.). This is

to make the training program experience more enjoyable.

  1. Info sessions at the start of the semester
  2. Written application with 2–3 (200–300 word) essays
  3. There is a round of filtering, and some applicants go through a mixer and (non-technical) interview
  4. The final decision is made after the interview

Website: https://mdb.dev
Publications: https://mdb.dev/blog/
Instagram: @mobiledevelopersofberkeley/

In Addition…

Besides the tech/Computer Science clubs listed above, there are also a bunch of other student clubs doing some really cool stuff:

There are also various communities on campus:

  • CS Scholars is a program meant to enable CS students from under-resourced and low opportunity communities
  • SWE (Society of Women Engineers)
  • AWE (Association of Women in EE&CS)
  • FEMTech Berkeley
  • CS Kickstart is a 1-week program for incoming freshman girls, where they learn python, go to different tech companies, and get exposed to tech careers.
  • CSUA (Computer Science Undergraduate Association)

… and Berkeley also has a number of consulting student clubs on campus with a tech focus:

  • VCG (Valley Consulting Group): Strategy consulting in tech
  • VSS (Venture Strategy Solutions): Strategic consulting for bay area startups
  • DiversaTech: Technology consulting organization that champions diversity of thought. Their teams are comprised of individuals from various disciplines from humanities to STEM to bring an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems.

Additionally…

  • UPE (Upsilon Pi Epsilon) and HKN (Eta Kappa Nu) are the L&S Computer Science and EECS Honors Societies respectively. You get invited to join these Computer Science clubs if you meet a certain GPA requirement, and you go through a semester-long process where you have to meet certain requirements and attend certain events before you’re officially a member of these societies.
  • The SCET (Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology) has various (paid and unpaid) opportunities for students to get involved. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a place that lists these opportunities in a consolidated manner, but this is 1 such example.
  • CSM (Computer Science Mentors) is a student-run organization that provides guidance and resources in a smaller classroom environment through group tutoring sessions. Outside of teaching, mentors watch movies, climb up to Soda almost everyday, hike, study together, and more!
  • The ASUC has an Office of the CTO (OCTO). You can find out more about them here.
  • Accel Scholars is a mentorship program that empowers undergraduate engineering and computer science students at UC Berkeley through unparalleled access to Silicon Valley, personalized mentorship, and industry-relevant curriculum. Read more here.
  • Berkeley has a ton of great research opportunities. This article won’t go into detail on this because research is a whole other beast but to my knowledge, they’re all fairly competitive, especially for undergraduates.
  • Tangentially related is the entrepreneurship ecosystem here at Cal, and a great resource for this is this guide (which is also an inspiration for this article)
  • CITRIS is a center of information technology at the interest of society. The center consists of research (tech policy, women in tech), student discoveries programs (tech for social good), and accelerator for startups that are addressing societal challenges. Read more here.
  • Besides the usual CS classes, there’re also a bunch of DeCals on some really cool subjects. You can check out their website for the complete list, but some of my favorites are the Web Design Decal, the React Decal, and the Ruby on Rails Decal.

A Final Note

The tech/Computer Science club culture at Cal is not without its accessibility issues. But in many ways, that’s a fact of life at a large public school like Berkeley where the number of students far outweigh the number of opportunities/resources.

I hope this guide has been useful in giving you a high-level picture of the different tech student organizations at Berkeley (and what they do)! Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions/spot any mistakes and you can always reach me through email!

Thank you for reading this! If you enjoyed it or found it useful, please give it 👏🏽50 times and share it with your friends so more people can get to it!


Special thanks to Thu Nguyen, the ANova Officer board, the Codeology team, Emily Zhong, Olivia Shiah, Divi Schmidt, Angela Dong, and Daniel Jing for their input on ANova, Codeology, Cal Hacks, Codebase, Launchpad, Blockchain at Berkeley, and Machine Learning at Berkeley respectively

dfangshuo

some thoughts tech-related

fang.

Written by

fang.

dfangshuo.github.io

dfangshuo

dfangshuo

some thoughts tech-related

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade