HackMIT Stories
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HackMIT Stories

What’s up, HackMIT 2020?

HackMIT is just around the corner, and I know you all have been anxiously (maybe not anxiously, more like excitedly?) waiting to hear what’s up with this year’s hackathon. You’re probably wondering, “What are some ~new~ and ~spicy~ things that you guys are doing this fall, especially given that it’s a virtual hackathon?” (If you’re registered, I hope you knew you it was virtual by now…) You’re also probably wondering, “Umm who the heck are you? Do I know you?” Well, these are both excellent questions that I’ll endeavor to answer in this little mediocrely written article of mine.

Hello. I’m Jamie :) I’m a sophomore at MIT studying Computer Science and I’m also the co-director of HackMIT 2020 (Jack Cook is the other co-director, and I’ve just discovered while writing this that he too has a Medium at Jack Cook, so that’s my shoutout of the day). Cool. On to other things.

HackMIT! We made the decision pretty early on in the summer to go virtual (and extend our hackathon to 36 hours!), and since then we’ve been working like crazy to make this hackathon a virtual experience like no other. Today, I’m gonna give you some of the tea (AKA platform and event highlights) on what’s going on with HackMIT this upcoming weekend!

Our Platforms

We will be using an assortment of different platforms this year to make your virtual hackathon experience really ~immersive~ (can you tell I like these squiggly ~ things). Let me describe them here.

Important Note: Before I get into this, I highly recommend all hackers have Zoom downloaded ahead of time, as most of our mini-events and some of our panels and/or workshops will be held over it. Our other speaker events, talks, and workshops will be livestreamed and open to the public on our fancy-shmancy HackMIT YouTube channel (you know the drill, liKe aND suBscRiBe), but you’ll still have the opportunity to ask questions, either through the live chat or over a site like sli.do.

Hack Playground

Do you remember when you were a kid and you’d log onto Club Penguin and waddle around with your friends around your igloos and talk to each other? No? (Okay if I’m being honest I don’t either, but according to Jack it was a very popular thing back in the day) While Club Penguin is Not a Thing anymore, HackMIT is here to bring you a Club Penguin-inspired virtual platform for hacking, meeting new friends (not penguins, real people), meeting sponsors and nonprofits, and hanging out! We’ll be releasing it on Friday after Opening Ceremony, and it’s honestly the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I would 👀 watch 👀 out for another post later this week with some more details on this by a certain Jack Cook :)

Slack

Before I joined the HackMIT organizing team, I very rarely used Slack (eek), but since then I’ve been somewhat indoctrinated into the Slack way of life. If you haven’t joined our HackMIT 2020 slack already, well…you should! You should have received an invitation to the join in your inbox (at the email you registered on my.hackmit.org with!) There’s channels for our tracks, team formation, help, and more. Our official schedule isn’t up yet, but we put new info and reminders about our upcoming events (the HackWeek events have started!) in #announcements daily, so check it out.

Discord

Don’t have a team? Don’t have an idea for a project yet? No worries! We’ll be holding team formation and ideation on our discord server, for which you’ll get the link to at the end of opening ceremony. Throughout the event you may be prompted to join other servers for certain workshops to get to know the sponsor workshop leads and other hackers, so even if you have a team and an idea (yay!), Discord might be a good thing to have ahead of time too.

Event Highlights

Okay, you know where it’s happening, now what exactly is happening??? Like I mentioned a little bit ago, our official schedule with the complete list of events will be up by this Friday, but I know you all have been very curious, so I’m going to give a brief rundown of the awesome stuff that’s coming up!

HackWeek

HackWeek is this week! Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. For those of you who aren’t familiar, HackWeek is HackMIT’s special week leading up the hackathon where we have speakers, workshops, and talks to get you excited about our event! All of our events this week (as well as some over the weekend!) are OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, so even if you’re not planning on attending HackMIT, there’s something for you here! One event I’m really excited about is Thursday’s fireside chat with Pooja Sankar, CEO and founder of Piazza, everybody’s favorite *struggling college student vibes* site.

Opening + Team Formation/Ideation

Friday, 9pm EDT, go.hackmit.org/opening— mark it in your calendars. This is the official start of HackMIT; our opening ceremony will feature keynote speaker Luis von Ahn, Co-founder and CEO of Duolingo (does the Duolingo owl intimidate you too?) Luis is also the co-inventor of CAPTCHAs, by the way! We’ll also have performances from the MIT Logarhythms, MIT’s oldest acapella group, and a few other keynotes from our biggest sponsors, Cambridge Mobile Telematics, InterSystems, and MIT IBM, Call for Code, and the Clinton Foundation. Lastly, and I know this is the boring (but important!) part, we’ll go over important rules, links, and other logistics for the event.

Friday, 10pm EDT — directly following opening, if you’re looking for a team or ideas, you’ll shimmy on over to our to-be-released discord server for team formation and ideation! I won’t go into too many details, but we’ll have our nonprofits there to help you figure out things like which track you’re most interested in and help you ideate with the context they have from their work!

Beginner Workshops

I am so, so excited about beginner workshops! Our team knows that a lot of our hackathon participants are first time hackers and coders, and it can be quite daunting to think about building an entire project from scratch within 36 hours. So we’re here to help! For the first time, the HackMIT organizing team (which is filled with amazing developers) will be guiding you through what it means to be a hacker. You’ll work on a sample web application project together over the span of 3 workshops, and by the end of it you’ll be ready to build your own! If you attend one of our workshops and build along with us you’ll be eligible to submit to our beginner prize too! The first workshop is at Saturday 12am EDT (this means approximately 3 hours after opening!), with the Zoom link to be shared on our platforms later.

Sponsor Coffee Chats, Challenges, Tech Talks, & Workshops

Our sponsors are so cool. To help you get to know them better, we’re offering coffee chats this year! If you join our Slack, you’ll find the sign up links as they’re posted (hint: the next batch of sign ups are coming out right after opening this Friday!) Our sponsors are also going to be talking about and teaching an assortment of cool things this weekend (that you may be able to apply to their challenges!), from detecting vehicle crashes with smartphones and building COVID-19 communication chatbots to REST APIs and React, there’s really something for everybody, and they’re happening all day Saturday! Keep your eyes peeled👀👀👀

Mini-Events

Everybody needs a break now and then. You’ve been coding for a few hours, and you really just want meet some hackers and make some new friends! Interspersed on Saturday are a set of just-for-fun things that I highly encourage you to attend: we’ve got speed friending, a Tik Tok workshop, an ab workout session (literally, I’m not even joking it’s a workout session this is exactly what I need in my life), an escape room, trivia night, and typeracer (the HackMIT team has some speedy typers, watch out for us there because we’re coming for ya).

Project Submission, Judging, and Closing

Projects are due on Sunday, 10am EDT, and you’ll be submitting those into our new project platform Spectacle! After that, you’ll get a short break before we dive right into expo and sponsor judging from 11am–1pm EDT! You’ll receive a few emails from us with your scheduled time slots (from our new judging platform Ballot!) for when you’ll present to your judges, and then if you’re one of our finalists you’ll join a live streamed panel judging call almost directly after! Finally, as a wrap up to a great weekend, we’ll have closing around 2:30pm EDT at go.hackmit.org/closing.

Whew. Did you make it this far? This post has been a journey for me as well. There are so many more fun events we have planned that I couldn’t possibly cram onto this obnoxiously long post already while still doing them justice. THEREFORE, what the next move is to watch out for our day-of website to go up to see all of the ~spicy~ details for everything I’ve described here (again…join Slack!)

Okay, I should finish this post up and give your eyes a rest from my excessive “~”s and “👀”s. If you have any questions, do drop a message in #help on Slack or reach out to us at help@hackmit.org. We have been working so hard to make this event enjoyable for you all, so we want to make sure you’re actually…you know, enjoying it!

That being said, (let’s get this bread and) get hype for HackMIT 2020!

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Jamie Fu

Jamie Fu

I’m a senior studying Computer Science, Finance, and Negotiation at MIT, and I hope my shenanigans brighten up your day by 17%.