SD Hacks 2016

An Event Recap

SD Hacks 2015 was a year of firsts and set a high standard for future hackathons in quality, attendance, and hacker engagement. With the transition from 2015 to 2016, the organizing team constantly asked itself “How can we give even more to the students at our event?”.

What’s New?

The first notable change was the shift in venue. This year, SD Hacks was held at RIMAC arena which provided more space and saved costs compared to the tent that was set up on RIMAC field last year. Although there was a certain awe that came with hacking inside of a tent, RIMAC arena provided many facilities and amenities that made it the best venue on campus to hold a hackathon.

The tent built on RIMAC Field
RIMAC Arena

There were also three new areas for hackers: a VR space, maker space, and gaming lounge.

The VR space, run by the Virtual Reality Club at UCSD, had ten high performance desktops provided by Gigabyte and HTC Vives which were used by teams throughout the event. The space gave VR developers the equipment they needed to create amazing projects such as the video game A Space Team.

The makerspace had six 3D printers, including a Fusion3 F400, provided by the San Diego Innovate Club. There were also mentors from Triton 3D to help students bring their designs to life. Major League Hacking also brought its famous hardware lab which includes equipment such as Arduino micro controllers, Amazon Echos, and Oculus Rifts.

A representative from the Qualcomm Institute using an HTC Vive

The gaming lounge, hosted by Triton Gaming and powered by Twitch, was a place where hackers spent time de-stressing and play games such as Super Smash Bros. and Overwatch.

There was also a sleeping space so that hackers could take a break and rest in between working all day on their projects. All of these new spaces brought something unique to SD Hacks and we are looking forward to keeping and growing the them for next year.

Areas of Improvement

99 teams submitted projects this year as compared to 77 submissions in 2015. This increase is most likely due to the added workshops and resources such as a new VR and iOS workshop. Hackers are more likely to complete projects when they have the necessary skills and resources to fully flesh out their ideas.

300 more hackers applied this year which is likely related to the growth of our Facebook following from 1,700 to 3,000 likes as well as the near doubling of our mailing list.

Facebook page likes over time

A post event survey was sent out to participants and the overall satisfaction rate was 90% consistent with last year’s ratings. One of the questions also asks hackers what the best part of the hackathon was to which the most common responses revolved around other people at the event. We will continue to try to nurture a strong community of hackers at SD Hacks.

Although many things improved from last year, SD Hacks can always enhance the hacker experience. More specifically, hackers pointed out the need for more mentors to help out with the event. Next year, we aim to achieve a 10:1 ratio of hackers to mentors. Our hope is to engage more UCSD alumni to fill these roles.

The organizing team started work early on certain aspects of the event but can still make sure that deadlines are followed more aggressively to allow us to spend more time on refining details.

Another area we could have improved was our media presence before and during the event. For updates, we mainly posted on Facebook and sent emails but some of our platforms were not frequently posted on such as our Twitter page. However, the event had more media coverage after the event including recaps of the the event in articles from The Triton, The Guardian, UC San Diego News Center, and DocuSign.

We would like to engage hackers more during the late hours by serving midnight snacks and hosting fun mini events. While these improvements wouldn’t contribute directly to the quality of hacks, they would improve the hacker experience. This year, we focused more on streamlining the core necessities to make a solid hackathon but with the structure this year carrying into 2017, we will work on including those extra experiences that make a hackathon great.

At the end of the day, SD Hacks 2016 was another successful 36 hour hackathon that brought people together to create innovative and new projects.

Looking To Next Year

During the transition from 2016 to 2017, the organizing team will focus on the sustainability and development of SD Hacks as an organization. This includes:

  • solidifying the structure of the planning team
  • continuing to increase documentation
  • executing tasks earlier

In general, we want to make sure that the hackathon remains an engaging event for hackers, sponsors, and faculty alike.

Thank you to everyone who has helped make SD Hacks 2016 possible!

First, we would like express our gratitude to Alex Kushner, Nelson Lorin, and Anthony Tran from the University Events Office for their work in making SD Hacks a high production event both years.

Our event would not be possible without our corporate sponsors including Qualcomm, ViaSat, Perkins Coie, and SPAWAR. Thanks also to the San Diego Economic Development Corporation for keeping us in touch with local businesses.

We would also like to thank the Jacobs School of Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering Department, Qualcomm Institute, Office of Innovation and Commercialization, UCSD Alumni, and Rady School of Management.

Finally, thank you to our wonderful volunteers and mentors who helped throughout the event. We’re all looking forward to what SD Hacks 2017 will bring!

SD Hacks organizers, mentors, and volunteers

If you have any recommendations on how we can make SD Hacks better, make sure to leave them in the comments!